MOREHOUSE - They have patched and repaired, mended and welded, now Morehouse city officials say it is time to really bring their water and sewage system up to grade with a proposed $1,250,000 renovation.
The Morehouse Board of Aldermen has proposed issuing revenue bonds to construct, rebuild, extend and generally improve the community's water and sewage system which serves approximately 485 residences. The issue will be on Tuesday's ballot and requires simple majority for passage.
Morehouse Mayor Pete Leija called passage of the revenue bonds essential not only for continued growth of the community but also for the safety and well-being of those currently served by the system.
He pointed out the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' inspection report found pipes on the verge of failure and flow meters which no longer function. Water usage reports indicate the city has a 37.3 percent water loss due to leaks in the system; the state considers anything greater than 10 percent unacceptable.
"The city really has no real choice in the matter as far as the water is concerned, something is going to have to be done," said Leija. "We don't want to wind up like some communities - without any water at all."
Describing the city's water plant as "an old work horse," the mayor said due to its age, it is often hard to find parts for repair. Officials estimate many of the city's water lines are about 80 years old and the plant, which was build in the 1940s, hasn't been upgraded since 1975.
Officials said the sewer main is undersized and that it fails to meet current state standards. Frequent clogs cause problems for city workers and some residences are not connected to the system creating a health hazard.
If the bond measure is passed, the money would provide for replacement of faulty fire hydrants, new pipes, valves and flow meters for the water treatment plant and enlargement of the sewer piping to meet DNR requirements. All residences would be connected to the sewage system. Also the work would provide for any future expansion.
The mayor said the city has sought grants for these improvements in the past but because of the community's low water rates, they were turned down. In the proposal going before the voters, officials have explained the bonds will be repaid from the revenues of operating the system.
And while no one has really opposed the issue, Leija said "the first thing anyone asks is 'How much is it going to cost me?' Well, the minimum user will see a $3.25 increase." Average users' rates would increase about $5.42, officials estimate.
The mayor said the community's rates are low compared to other towns. Also for the money he believes Morehouse residents will see a good return on their investment.
"If Morehouse is going to grow, to increase its housing, we have to be able to provide good water and proper sewage disposal," he said. "If we are going to grow, this is the way to go."