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Waynesville sewer bond seeking stimulus funds passes by 94 percent
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (June 2, 2009) — Not many elections can claim a 94 percent margin of victory, but that happened Tuesday evening when Waynesville residents decided by a 207 to 13 vote to allow the city to apply for $6.5 million in state revolving fund and federal stimulus package financing.

“We think the project will cost about $5.2 million, but we bonded for a somewhat larger amount in case of overruns or something unexpected,” said Waynesville City Administrator Bruce Harrill. “We are just pleased with the action of the voters.”

A total of 220 people cast ballots, with 41 voting absentee by a margin of 34 yes to 7 no, and 179 cast ballots in person on Tuesday with 173 voting yes and 6 voting no.

City Councilman Ed Conley called the vote a “no-brainer” at a public hearing last month to discuss the vote since the city would likely have had to do the sewer project work anyway. New federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations prevent cities from letting untreated sewage run into streams and lakes during high-volume periods of discharge caused by stormwater getting into the sewer lines, and the project will be required to add enough treatment and storage capacity to hold Waynesville’s sewage during storms. The untreated but diluted sewage now flows directly into the Roubidoux Creek when too much rainwater mixes with the sewage for the current system to handle.

Tuesday’s vote means Waynesville is eligible for low-interest state revolving fund loans that are expected to save the city millions in interest over the 15 to 20 year term of the loan, rather than having to pay higher commercial lending rates. However, Harrill has said he hopes to use the voter approval to obtain a $2 million grant that won’t have to be paid back at all.

There’s no guarantee that Waynesville will receive the money. As of two weeks ago, Waynesville was on a contingency list, but Harrill said he’ll submit the required documents as soon as possible to apply for the grants and low-interest loans.

“I think we are going to be getting our plans ready and the engineering finalized, and we’ll update the Department of Natural Resources on the results of our vote,” Harrill said.

While pleased by the outcome, Harrill was disappointed by the results of the vote. More than three-fourths of the 930 ballots printed for the election went unused, and the turnout of 220 people in a precinct with 2,654 eligible voters was only an 8.3 percent turnout. At an estimated cost of $4,300 for the election, that means the vote cost $19.55 per ballot cast.

“We expected a low turnout,” Harrill said. “This is not a primary election people are used to voting in.”

County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer shared Harrill’s disappointment over the low turnout, even though it meant she and her poll workers and assistant clerk could go home less than an hour after the polls closed.

“It’s disappointing that more people didn’t come out to vote; I felt that the city of Waynesville certainly publicized it,” Linnenbringer said.

Linnenbringer cautioned that the vote percentage may be artificially low due to last fall’s presidential race in which both the Republican and Democratic candidates aggressively pushed to register their supporters.

“Due to November of last year’s election, people who had never voted before or who vote seldom had registered. It inflated, basically, the total registered voters,” Linnenbringer said.

The county’s last special election was in February when the Swedeborg R-III School Board proposed a tax increase that was resoundingly defeated by voters.

“Swedeborg had a 35 percent turnout in February, but of course this is a much larger precinct,” Linnenbringer said.

The Swedeborg R-III School District has only 389 registered voters, but 137 of them showed up to cast their ballots, along with one absentee voter. The final tally showed 94 voters opposed to a proposed property tax increase and 43 supporting it. That’s more than a two-to-one defeat for the tax increase, with 68.6 percent voting against the proposal.

If the proposal had succeeded, it would have raised the district’s property tax levy from $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation to what state school officials consider to be an appropriate level of $3.43.

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