by Alan McArthur
The Park Hill Board of Education heard from several residents on Thursday about a sewer line for Union Chapel Elementary proposed to be built by the school district.
During the public comments section of the meeting, five residents spoke against the proposal to place the sewer line east of Union Chapel Elementary through the valley near Crooked Road. Previously, Jim Rich, director of operations for Park Hill, said the sewer line will run a distance of approximately 9,000 feet with a cost of $960,000.
The total cost for the project including negotiations with landowners for easements is estimated to be $1.25 million. A portion of the funding is coming from a 2006 bond issue passed in the district.
Some residents questioned the legality of the sewer line being constructed by the district. Bryan Foster said the line would cut a 50-foot portion of trees through his property and would cost him over $80,000 when he is forced to connect his home to the line.
According to guidelines from the Platte County Regional Sewer District (PCRSD) any home within 400 feet of a sewer line is required to pay a connection fee and hook into a sewer line.
Rosemary Van Harren questioned the use of bond money on the project, saying the project is not listed in the ballot language.
The bond issue read, “Shall the Park Hill School District issue its general obligation bonds in the amount of $33,000,000 for the purpose of purchasing, constructing, furnishing, equipping, repairing, renovating, and improving school facilities, including without limitation, (a) constructing an early childhood education center, (b) acquisition and installation of safety and security equipment/systems, (c) purchase of real estate, (d) purchase and installation of technology and communications improvements, and (e) constructing and improving District-wide athletic facilities?”
At Thursday’s meeting, district officials also included minutes from closed session meetings held July 31 and Aug. 14 in packets provided to the press. After the meeting, Nicole Kirby, Park Hill communications coordinator, quickly asked the two media members present for their packets and she removed the pages containing the minutes. It appeared Kirby had been alerted to do so by an administrator.
The minutes had been approved by the board earlier in the meeting, making them official records.
According to the minutes later obtained by The Landmark, the board discussed the issue of the sewer project in detail during the meetings and discussed methods of dealing with the landowners in order to get easements for the sewer line construction.
The sewer project proposed by the district is to run from Union Chapel Elementary to the east to connect to a line near the intersection of Crooked Road and 45 Highway, having the waste treated by Parkville.
In the Aug. 14 minutes, Paul Kelly, assistant superintendent for business and technology, is quoted as saying there is the potential to use eminent domain. Dennis Fisher, superintendent, is recorded as saying the Platte County Regional Sewer District “has the responsibility to work with the eminent domain issue.”
The closed session minutes do not show the board took any votes on the sewer issue and do not list any comments by individual school board members.
According to Rich, the district will be required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to rebuild the small sewer treatment facility at Union Chapel in 2011. The district has been studying alternatives including the installation of the sewer line.
Kelly has previously said the district was considering other options as a way to save money on the project in the future.
The PCRSD's Master Plan lists the project for the future and according to Rich, if the district constructs a different line, when the sewer line through the valley is constructed, the district would be forced to pay to connect to the line.
The district's proposed sewer line affects approximately 16 property owners along the route.
In other business, the board also set the tax rate for 2008 on Thursday night. The board voted to set the tax rate at a total of $5.3027 per $100 assessed valuation.
The rate for 2007 was $5.3029. The difference is from the district increasing the operating levy by $0.0453 and reducing the debt service levy from $0.6562 to $0.6107.