Residents might be seeing a bond issue on their November ballot, asking for their assistance in improving local wastewater treatment.

Steve Hargis, Director of Public Works for the City of Rolla, facilitated a workshop for the city council, bringing them up to speed on the project and what voters need to know about the project.

The project comes as part of what Hargis described as a “voluntary compliance agreement,” with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. This agreement, according to Hargis, is to eliminate part of the city’s water treatment process that was previously approved, but no longer meets regulations.

“We were given a ten year window to work on a plan to eliminate that process,”Hargis said. 

The plan being discussed takes the city to 2021 in terms of wastewater treatment, according to Hargis, and was developed to address the situation where regulations are changing faster than the city can keep up with. New regulations are being handed down before the city can pay off the previous projects. This Integrated Management Plan, as Hargis described, is part of a memorandum of understanding with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), to allow all parties involved to have a clear plan moving forward with treatment improvements. 

“By putting together a long range plan, the city, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) all know what that schedule is for the next 20 years,” said Hargis. “It’s taken us a while to get there, but the integrated management plan should be finished in the next couple months.” 

The project would improve two plants, the Vichy Road treatment plant and the Southeast treatment plant. According to Hargis, the planned improvements would address issues where stormwater is leaking into the treatment system and being sent into the creeks. 

“Part of that voluntary compliance agreement was to give us an opportunity to go out and and go through our system and find as many leaks as we could and eliminate those,”said Hargis. 

Additionally, Hargis said the project will be designed with future improvements in mind, which can easily be added onto the building. 

The cost for the first phase of the project is $25 million, with the design portion costing $2 million. The city will be asking voters their permission to bond this money on their November ballot. 

Hargis said this will be a low interest bond with subsidized interest rates. 

“We’ll save several million dollars over the life of the improvement if we participate in this low-interest loan,”he explained. “We’re going to be required to do this. Whether we want to or not, we’re going to have to spend this money and do these improvements.”

Hargis explained other options will end up costing the city more money in the long run. As the city pays off current bonds, that freed revenue can be redirected to pay off this bond. 

After the project is over, Hargis said they will be taking another in-depth look at the local streams and seeing how they can efficiently treat them. 

“The better treatment we give our wastewater, the better quality of streams we have in our area,” said Hargis. “That’s what driving all this.”