Question 2 asks residents to decide how to pay for improved sewer system

On August 7 Kansas City voters must decide if they want to pay now – or later – to replace the city’s sanitary sewers. As 4th District Councilperson Jan Marcason explained to MainCor last week, the issue is “critically important” because the federal government has mandated that Kansas City (and 700 other cities across the country) convert its combined sewer system to a modern system. The new regulations require that sewage and storm water can no longer be mixed in the same pipe, because that can cause pollution in streams and create other potential problems. The city has no choice about making upgrades to tunnels, pipes and pumping stations; it must make improvements it promised the EPA or it will face stiff penalties.

Question #2 on the ballot will ask voters to approve $500 million in general obligation sewer bonds. Marcason has been leading efforts to deal with the sewer issues for several years, and she says the estimated cost of fixing the problem has been rising. She says issuing the bonds now, when interest rates are at nearly historic lows, will allow the city to “borrow some money while it’s a good time to borrow, and start making the sewer system more modern and safer.” She acknowledges that, even with the bonds, water rates will still go up for Kansas City residents. The Kansas City Star estimates rates will nearly double over the next five years if the bonds are approved; if they are not approved, rates could increase by 125 percent over the next two years alone.

By the way, Marcason says Midtown pipes are some of the oldest in the city. “Along Main Street, people were laying pipe; they left to go to the Civil War and then came back to finish laying them.”

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