By Phil Sutin
Nov 16, 2000 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)—A dispute between the Metropolitan St. Louis and Northeast sewer districts could cost the St. Louis district more than $100,000 if the dispute is not resolved.
At issue is the charge for the treatment of sewage of a few customers near Hawkins Road near the Jefferson County line. The territory is hilly. Northeast, which is in Jefferson County, handles the sewage of 39 residents of St. Louis County because its facilities are downhill from their houses. It could serve up to 140 if houses were built on all lots in the area.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis district serves an apartment complex of about 20 units in Jefferson County uphill from St. Louis district facilities.
Last month, Northeast's trustees rejected the St. Louis sewer district's proposal that residents in each district pay their local district for service at the home district's rate. The two districts then would transfer money to meet the full cost of providing the service.
The Northeast trustees said the district would not accept any more c ustomers from St. Louis County and gave the St. Louis district three months to prepare a plan to serve the customers now handled by Northeast.
Allen Welshon, general manager of the Northeast district, said his district could not agree to allow the St. Louis County customers to pay as little as one-third of the charge that residents of Jefferson County paid.
The district also is upset that the St. Louis district wants to change an arrangement that has been in effect for many years, Welshon says.
Robert Butchko, director of engineering for the St. Louis sewer district, said his district would have to install a pump station and a pipe taking the sewage from the 39 customers to one of his district's sewers. That project could cost more than $100,000, he said. He could not give a more detailed estimate until engineers prepared a plan.
Last week, trustees of the St. Louis district gave Willie Horton, its executive director, permission to discuss the issue with Northeast directors.
Currently, property owners who live in the St. Louis district and have sewage treated by Northeast pay that district $26.50 a month for the service. They also pay property taxes to the St. Louis district.
The charge is two to three times as much what they would pay the St. Louis district, whose charges are based on water usage rather than a flat fee.
Earlier this year, a Northeast customer in St. Louis County objected to paying both the higher Northeast charge and taxes to the St. Louis district. He spoke at a meeting of the St. Louis district's trustees. The St. Louis district's proposal tries to resolve that complaint, Butchko says.
Several months ago, the Northeast district decided against building a trunk sewer that would take its sewage to a treatment plant that the St. Louis district planned to build along Fine Road in Oakville. The Fine Road plant would discharge the treated sewage into the Mississippi River.
Instead, the Northeast district would expand its Ron Rog plant to treat 4 million gallons of sewage a day from its current 1.5-million- gallon daily capacity. Northeast would install a pipe that would discharge treated sewage from that plant into the Meramec River. Now this sewage goes into Saline Creek. The project could cost $12 million, he said.
Welshon says the district rejected the Fine Road arrangements because the cost of connecting to the Fine Road facility would force the district to raise its monthly sewer rate to as much as $80. That rate is far more than its customers can afford, he says.
The district would use part of $45 million in bonds approved in April of last year to pay for the Ron Rog project, he said.
Butchko said the Fine Road plant would be designed so the district could expand it later to process sewage from Jefferson County.
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