Ashland residents learn about sewage bond issue

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ASHLAND - Ashland residents learned details about a bond issue that will be on next month's ballot Monday.

The bond issue, worth seven million dollars, will go toward a new water treatment plant. The city currently uses an enhance lagoon system, but needs to upgrade to a mechanical treatment facility to meet Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria.

Residents had a chance to listen to city officials present details on the project's funding and plans.

If the bond issue passes in August, Ashland residents will see an increase in monthly usage rates. However, the bond issue would cost the city and residents 15 to 20 percent less than any possible alternatives that would occur if residents do not vote to approve the bond issue.

"If we don't pass the bond issue, the result will be a higher interest rate from the standpoint of having the listed authority of the voters on the bond issue process. We wouldn't have that with the bond issue," project engineer Chad Sayre said.

The process to program, design and get permit approval will take approximately three to four years.

"Right now we are under a Department of Natural Resources compliant schedule, so that within three or four years we have to have the project designed, permitted, approved, bid out, and constructed. So we're basically on that two to four year timeframe to get it completed and in service," Sayre said.

In that time, user rates would go up from $25 - $28 for an average 5,000 gallon usage customer to $38 - $42.

If the bond issue does not pass on August 5, the issue will be moved to the next local election, or the city will finance the building another way. He said the best option for the city and its residents is to pass the bond issue.

"The Department of Natural Resources and EPA are saying 'you shall make these improvements.' So in our opinion, the smartest thing is to have the bond issue, because it allows more flexibility to have a lower cost financing, which is going to keep our rates lower," Sayre said.

 Sayre also said the project will continue even without the bond issue's passage because the city is required to update its water treatment system.