Warrenton, Truesdale holding talks on sewer service

Warrenton sewage treatment plant. File photo.
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

Representatives of the cities of Warrenton and Truesdale are meeting this week to try to resolve tensions over sewer treatment that Warrenton provides to its smaller neighbor.

Aldermen, mayors, city administrators and public works heads from both cities scheduled a joint meeting Feb. 17 to discuss the future of the sewer utility. It's a service most people prefer to forget about after they flush, but adequate sewer service is incredibly important to the growth of a city, and right now it's a cause for frustration between Warrenton and Truesdale.

The issue began with a massive residential development proposed in Truesdale nearly a year ago. Warrenton aldermen denied use of their sewer system for the project, effectively vetoing the development. Warrenton cited dwindling sewer treatment capacity that it was saving for its own developments.

That decision was a bitter pill for Truesdale leaders, who say their city's growth has been completely stunted, while other towns around them enjoy a housing boom. Truesdale has discussed developing an independent sewer system, but that effort was stalled by COVID.

The issue has lingered for months, until recently leaders of both cities realized they need an exchange of information to plan for future utility service.

Warrenton is beginning engineering for an expansion to its sewer treatment plan, projected to be complete by 2027. However, Warrenton Administrator Terri Thorn in January explained that engineers also need detailed information about Truesdale's future growth.

Warrenton has asked for information about what new housing or industrial development Truesdale might need sewage capacity for in the next seven years, but hasn't heard much back, Thorn said. That makes it hard to draw up plans for the sewer expansion.

"With the lack of any specific details or information, we would have to proceed with our capacity increase under the assumption that what (Truesdale) currently has is what they're going to have into the future," Thorn said. "There's absolutely no way to 'guesstimate' what (their need) might be as things move forward."

Meanwhile, Warrenton has its own financial need that requires Truesdale's cooperation. Warrenton is preparing to seek additional bond financing – a type of loan – to finish construction of new sewer mains. To secure those bonds, Warrenton needs to provide information about the sewer system's financial future, including Truesdale's future participation as a major customer.

So now the two sides need to talk. Truesdale needs to know what information to provide so that its sewer needs can be built into the expansion. Warrenton needs to know how much sewer treatment, if any, Truesdale plans to purchase in future years.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions on both ends," commented Truesdale Mayor Chris Watson. His city is asking for more details about Warrenton's sewer engineering process and growth projections, but also seeks to convey that Truesdale doesn't have the same resources for growth planning that Warrenton has.

Watson said he hopes the upcoming talk will improve communications between the neighboring towns. Ultimately, he said Truesdale wants a compromise that will allow the town to start growing again now, rather than sitting stagnant for six more years.

"I hope if we're trying to comply with their requests, we're able to continue growth until their (sewer) capacity is increased, or until we're able to do our own treatment," Watson said.

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