Dear Voters of Osawatomie:

By Phil Dudley
I am writing this guest editorial to communicate to you, the voter, the purposes of Charter Ordinance #13 and the need to approve the creation of the Stormwater Utility. There are very real consequences for voting no and I ask that you consider seriously these consequences. I also hope that you utilize this article to educate yourself about the issue and make an informed decision on November 2nd. First – I want to answer some basic questions that I have received regarding the issue and upon answering those questions I will go into a bit more detail as to our purpose behind #13.

Q: What does a YES vote mean on Charter Ordinance #13?
A: The City of Osawatomie will be able to establish a storm water utility. This is similar to establishing a water, electricity, or sewer utility.
Q: What does the new utility allow the city to do?
A: By establishing this utility our city will be able to begin to build up funding in order to apply for matching CDBG grants or other monies available to small cities.
Q: What will Voting YES for this initiative cost me today?
A: The fee structure will be determined after a series of public meetings are held and recommendations are brought back to the Council. The Council will keep the cost PER RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY under $2.00.
Q: What will happen if the referendum doesn’t pass?
A: Osawatomie will be unprepared when the EPA begins to force our city to comply with the Federal Clean Water Standards Act. We will then be dealing with the problem on the EPA’s terms instead of ours.
Q: Where will the money come from in order to meet the EPA guidelines?
A: One or more of the following will be likely sources to deal with these additional unfunded mandates – property taxes, surcharges, sales tax, or special assessments on all real estate in our community.
Osawatomie has been very successful in leveraging our local funds to serve as matching dollars in grants that have assisted us in financing the rehabilitation of ten miles of sanitary sewer mains (2007/2008) as well as 20+ blocks of street reconstruction (2007/2008). In 2009/2010 we were successful in grant applications for the 8th Street mill/overlay project, downtown streetscape, and library renovations (Phase 1 of a two phase project – Phase 2 has been applied for this month). Finally, beginning in 2011, the construction of Pacific from 12th to 14th, 14th from Pacific to Main, and Brown from 14th to 18th will occur and nearly 50% of this will be paid for with grant dollars. All of these projects were done out of necessity. Delayed action will only force future citizens and governing bodies of Osawatomie to spend more in local dollars in a shorter amount of time to comply with additional unfunded mandates which are most certainly on their way These requirements, if we delay, will most certainly come at a time that is inconvenient and well beyond our control.

Osawatomie is very familiar with unfunded mandates. The most current unfunded mandate we are addressing is the certification of our levee system. We are required to certify the levee as a result of federal legislation that was passed several years ago. This legislation has been in federal statutes for several years. Delays led FEMA to force the hand of the city less than one month prior to the historic flood of 2007 to initiate this process. Certification could have been much easier to manage financially had it been addressed over the number of years the city was required to certify the levees.

As it is, our engineers are in a race with FEMA to certify the levee before FEMA can remove them from the flood maps and require hundreds of individuals whose property is currently protected by the levee from buying flood insurance. This unfunded mandate, when finished, will have cost the city of Osawatomie approximately $400,000. The purpose of the levee certification process is to give the city of Osawatomie and its engineers the ability to communicate with certainty to FEMA that our levee system complies with the federal statutes. This levee system was designed, constructed, and inspected annually by a different agency of the federal government – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water is charged through the Clean Water Act, to enforce the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System regulations for discharges from municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4′s). Large communities have been making modifications to their storm sewer systems for years under these requirements and the EPA is in the initial stages of preparing to move to the next sized communities (to which Osawatomie is a part of) and begin enforcing these regulations on our community.

On November 2nd, you will have a choice be proactive and give authority to the City of Osawatomie to create this utility and begin working on our storm sewer system before we are forced to address the issues that are required to be addressed by federal legislation in a timeframe that we can ill afford. In my opinion the only affordable option is to VOTE YES.

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Posted by Jeff on Oct 28 2010. Filed under News and Updates, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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