By Mike Scott
In less than two weeks, in a February 7 Special Election, Kahoka voters will decide whether or not to allow the city to borrow up to eight million dollars to improve its water quality by building a new water generation/filtration plant and replace the 50-plus- year-old transmission line running from the wells and water plant near Wayland to Kahoka.
Kahoka’s water, while safe, has high levels of iron and manganese which cause discoloration and cloudiness in the water. A new filtration system will remove these minerals from the water, thereby improving the water quality.
In the two years that the Kahoka City Council has been discussing a new water plant and transmission line, the cost estimates have soared. In 2021, the estimate was $2.7 million dollars for the treatment plant, plus a “ballpark” figure of $2 million more to replace the transmission line from Wayland to Kahoka
In early 2022, the city applied for a $5 million dollar Missouri’s Community Water Infrastructure Grant, as part of the $5,563,000 estimated project cost. The city’s application ranked 186th out of 371 applicants, and was not selected for funding.
“Our water costs are too low,” said Mayor Tony Anderson. The low water rates, along with a lack of debt owed by the city, were cited as factors in the city not receiving grant funding.
The $8,000,000 the city is requesting is a guess, hopefully on the high side, of the costs need to cover the project. In 2022, the cost of building material rose at a faster rate than inflation, further running up the price tag. However, the city would not be obligated to borrow the entire sum if project bids came in lower than $8,000,000.
A Change of Engineering Companies?
A new development raising further questions is the abrupt change of engineering companies. The preliminary project plans, which were submitted with grant application in 2022, were developed by Four Points Engineering and Surveying, from Hannibal. In 2021, engineer Kyle Pociask was selected by the Kahoka City Council to develop the plans for the new treatment facility. At that time, the council preferred the simplicity and costs of Four Point’s proposal, compared to the alternative proposed by Klingner and Associates of Quincy.
“Kyle quit us,” said Anderson, who was unable to provide further explanation.
On Thursday evening, January 19, the council approved a short-term agreement with Klingner and Associates to attend the public meeting scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, to help answer public questions.
Anderson also stated that Klingner and Associates will be able to utilize some of the plans already made, and that project’s estimated price tag is expected to be lower than their previous proposal.
How do we pay for it?
Paying for the project would fall on the 1200 water customers served by the City of Kahoka.
The bond will be repaid by revenue from the water customers in Kahoka, over a 35-year period. Property taxes will not be affected by this project.
The Media provided the following calculation: Assuming that the city borrowed the entire $8 million dollars, the cost to customers would be divided over the 1200 customers over the life of the loan.
Eight million dollars divided by 35 years is $228,571.43 per year for principal. That figure divided by the 1200 customers is $190.47, which, divided by 12 months equals an additional $15.87 per month needed to repay the loan (before interest).
A brochure/press release provided by the city states that water rates will be expected to increase by approximately 37 percent, if the city is able to receive grants or other low-interest financing. If not, and the city is forced to pay for everything on its own, a customer’s monthly water bill could increase by 65 percent.
Currently, the city’s rate for 2000 gallons (minimum charge) is $21.00. The 37 percent increase would add $7.77 to the minimum monthly bill. A 65 percent increase would add about $13.65 to the monthly bill.
“One way or another we’re going to have to do something, and the water charge will have to go up. The stuff we have is 50 years old, and it’s just going to get more expensive to repair and maintain it,” said Anderson.
Is there another way?
“All we would have to do is open the tap, and we could serve the City of Kahoka right now,” said Dan Dover, District Manager of the Consolidated Public Water Supply District #1 of Clark County.
“Right now, we have the capacity to produce 950,000 gallons per day. Our customers use about 500,000, and Kahoka uses about 200,000 gallons per day. And after our expansion is complete, our capacity will be 1.3 million gallons per day,’ said Dover.
That expansion includes a redundant water main to Kahoka, as well as emergency generators to provide pumping power in the event of a power outage.
The CPWSD#1 would like to sell wholesale water to the city of Kahoka, not take over the city’s system or daily operations.
“I have a bulk wholesale municipality rate that begins at $2.00 per 1000 gallons,” Dover said. “If Kahoka bought water from us, they wouldn’t have to raise their rates.”
That bulk rate is based on the costs of production and delivery.
Canton and LaGrange rates are higher because of the distance, Dover said, explaining that pumping costs and line maintenance over that distance cause higher rates. Rates in Revere are higher because the CPWSD#1 also provides sewer service, and Wyaconda’s rates are higher because of debt service costs.
Anderson questions the CPWSD#1’s ability to provide an uninterrupted water supply for Kahoka.
“If they have break somewhere, will they have cut off Kahoka residents?” he asked. “I think it’s easier for our town to take care of the water for our town. Our main focus is to do what’s best for the town.”
For more than two decades, there has been bad blood between the City of Kahoka and the CPWSD#1, after a 2001 lawsuit accusing Kahoka of infringing on the water district’s territory by serving 132 customers along Hwy 136, and an additional 16 customers adjacent to the city of Kahoka. The city ultimately lost that suit.
“I don’t want to see the bad blood from the past cause Kahoka’s water rates to increase,” said Dover.
Public Meeting Planned
An informational public meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25, in the Clark County Middle School Commons. The meeting will start at 6:30pm. The complete ballot language for the February 7 vote can be seen on page 6 of this edition of The Media.