St. Joseph Lawmaker Takes Action Against High Sewer Rates

Concerns over high sewer rates caused one St. Joseph lawmaker to step up and call for action.

Posted: Feb. 28, 2018 11:42 AM
Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 11:49 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Concerns over high sewer rates caused one St. Joseph lawmaker to step up and call for action.

Missouri Representative Galen Higdon is sponsoring a new bill, House Bill 1595, that would place municipal sewer districts under the control of the Public Service Commission.

One woman who has lived around Lake Contrary for two years says her sewer bills have always been outrageous.

"I'm a single mother of three children, so I have to work extra hours just to cover the sewer bill," Sheryl Bassett, Lake Contrary resident, said. "The lowest one I've ever gotten has been $220 a month, and my water bill at the most has been $80."

City officials said because Lake Contrary residents do not pay St. Joseph City taxes, they have not made an investment into the city's infrastructure.

As an agreement with Lake Contrary sewer system, those who live in the area pay 2.3 times what water users inside city limits pay.

"For the citizens of St. Joe who have earned and invested into that system, this is an opportunity for that investment to pay back," Andy Clements, Public Works Director, said. "If somebody wants to use something that you own, but they don't own then it's an opportunity for them to say 'sure you can use it, but you're not going to get the same rate as I am'."

Rep. Higdon asked for those who live by Lake Contrary to bring their sewer bills to Jefferson City on Wednesday while the bill is introduced to the Legislative Utilities Committee.

This committee will be responsible for hearing Higdon's proposed bill and will determine whether it will get to the full General Assembly.

"It would eliminate the ability of elected city councils and their citizens to directly influence the rate making process for the water utilities," Clements said.

Clements doesn't believe the bill would really help lower anyone's sewer bill.

"I wouldn't see that," Clements said. "I think that the varied city councilmen over time have always had their eye on trying to manage a rate that provides the best service that they can do for the dollar."

However, Bassett said if something doesn't change soon, she probably won't stick around the area much longer.

"If it doesn't go down, I'm probably going to end up moving," Bassett said.

The Legislative Utilities Committee is Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the State Capital Building in Jefferson City.

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