Branson Tri-Lakes News News Free - Sewer district split from county complete, 2013 projects planned

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Sewer district split from county complete, 2013 projects planned

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Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 11:55 am

This year will bring several significant changes for the Taney County Regional Sewer District.

The district became its own independent governmental entity as of Jan. 1.

In years past, the sewer district was viewed as a department of Taney County, under the purview of the county commission.

It was discovered in 2011 that the relationship was not compliant with Missouri law, however.

Sewer Administrator John Soutee said the district has worked to set up a payroll system and provide insurance for its staff separate from the county.

The sewer district also is now responsible for its own office costs and vehicles.

Commissioners deeded existing equipment to the district before the separation was completed.

Some of that extra overhead caused a rate increase, Soutee said.

“We feel that (the rate increase) will be good for the next two to three years,” he said.

The sewer district serves approximately 2,500 accounts each month, and Soutee noted that some of those accounts include many separate units such as at bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels and other vacation properties in unincorporated parts of Taney County.

“We serve a lot of structures with our area being tourism-based,” he said.

The district is funded entirely by a half-cent sewer tax, approved by voters in 1993.

The tax, which Soutee said generates approximately $6.5 million a year, is given to the district and to municipalities for capital projects.

With its portion, the sewer district is working on repairing existing lines and expanding services.

“We started building sewers in 1994,” Soutee said. “Since that time, we’ve adopted places like Spring Meadows and Country Club Heights that had centralized, private sewer collection systems.

“We can’t invent new customers, but we are working seriously on improving our efficiency,” he said.

The district also is working on an extension of the Coon Creek sewer system, referred to as the Spring Meadows project, and expanding service down T Highway, Soutee said.

That project will involve doubling one of the lift stations in the area.

Sewer personnel are working to obtain easements for the district’s Powersite North project, as well.

That project, Soutee said, will bring sewer service to an area across the lake from Forsyth.

“(The area) is indicative of many of our subdivision areas developed in the 1960s and 70s,” he said. “They’re served by septic systems that don’t work very well anymore.”

A feasibility study is underway to look at the possibility of building a treatment facility or expanding Hollister’s facility to handle future growth. That study should be completed by early summer.

Soutee said the regional sewer district doesn’t have any of its own treatment facilities, instead paying municipalities to treat the district’s effluent flow.

“I don’t know if we’re going to jump right in and build a plant, but we do want to know how feasible it is,” he said. “Development has slowed down because of the economy, but there are a lot of players out there.”

The sewer district also works with municipalities to pay out reimbursements for their capital sewer projects.

Soutee said in 2012 Branson received about $600,000, while Forsyth got more than $150,000.

“That’s pretty good money, and each incorporated area can apply for usage of those funds,” he said. “The sales tax really is a blessing.

“There’s a lot of communities in other counties that don’t have sewer sales taxes, so they have to try to Band-aid their stuff, or try to get by (without proper repairs),” Soutee said. “They don’t put the money back into infrastructure like they should until a major issue happens and then they’ve got (the Missouri Department of Natural Resources) breathing down their neck.”

The tax sunsets in 2023, he said.

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