Local voters to decide whether city finances sewer improvements through bonds or pay as you go

There is no getting around it. With the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources mandating changes, the City of Fulton needs to make some major upgrades to its waste water treatment plant.

The only question is exactly how the city will finance the $15 million project, and that decision will be up to local voters on April 2.

The options are to go with a pay-as-you go plan, bonds through the State Revolving Fund — if approved by the state — or through the traditional bonding process, and they all involve a rate increase for local utility customers. The city does have some funds set aside, but $13 million of the project must be funded by one of those options.

Director of Administration Bill Johnson and Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap sat down Thursday afternoon to go over what those three different funding mechanisms mean for Fulton utility customers so voters can make an informed decision when they head to the polls in April.

Johnson started off by once again emphasizing that it is not the city that is imposing this expense on the citizens.

“This isn’t an option. This is being required by the EPA, and the enforcement is being pushed down through DNR,” Johnson said.

The city council has not yet voted on ballot language, but according to Johnson and Dunlap, a “yes” vote on April 2 means that the city will pay for the sewer improvements using bonds — represented on the graph by the red and blue lines — either through the State Revolving Fund (blue), or the traditional bonding process (red) with the main difference between the two being the interest rate. The bonding option would need a simple majority in order to pass.

Before reviewing estimated project costs and rate increases, Johnson pointed out that all of these numbers are subject to change by any number of factors — including the potential for more regulations leading to more mandatory improvements.

“This is a picture of the situation at the sewer plant today,” he said. “In a few years, changes could happen to change these numbers drastically.”

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