By: Tara Blue
On Tuesday, Feb. 6th, Ashland residents rejected the city’s $40 million dollar bond issue, with 53.48% of voters selecting “NO” to the wastewater bond question. The issue needed a simple majority to pass, but failed to do so, with only 45.34% of voters selecting “YES”. The city says improvements to the combined waterworks and sewerage system are still necessary to increase the system’s capacity needs and to address regulatory compliance.

According to the city’s bond fact sheet, the city will seek alternative financing mechanisms which will result in the sewer rates being raised at a much higher rate over a shorter period of time. City Administrator Kyle Michel says the results of the election are “unfortunate and disappointing”, and the wastewater improvements are “here and now needs that don’t go away because the ballot measure failed.”

Michel says that “some that voted against this measure were led to believe that these projects would halt if they simply voted no. It is unfortunate that these voters did not seek out the available information to better understand these issue because the reality is, they simply voted to pay more money for these projects by voting no.” He says the city must now pursue a “larger immediate increase to customer bills as we will no longer be able to take advantage of the Planning and Design Loan offered through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.”

Michel says the city will develop a new plan of action over the next few weeks and will move forward with engineering design to expand the wastewater treatment facility. He says the engineering will “cost upwards of $500,000, which will now likely be paid directly out of available funds as opposed to leveraging funding through the DNR to reduce and delay these immediate felt costs. The goal still remains to have the plant expansion completed and operational by 2027. We will not be delaying this process in anticipation of the County’s second round of ARPA funding. Expanding the plant must move forward with or without the support of the County. The County’s support will simply help reduce the overall project costs, thus providing relief to residents of southern Boone County. With that being said, the County’s support is now more critical due to the bond failing as we will expect to pay significantly more for these projects due to losing access to the subsidized interest rates offered by the State Revolving Fund.”

258 out of Ashland’s 3,279 eligible residents voted on the bond issue on Tuesday, Feb. 6th, 2024, or 7.86%, in what was the first February Municipal Bond Election in Boone County since 1998.