Wright City, MO voters will be asked to approve a no tax increase bond in the April 2024 election with the money used to pay for improvements to roads.
Wright City voters will be asked to approve a no-tax increase bond in April to help improve city roads.
The question on the ballot will state “Shall the City of Wright City, Missouri, issue its general obligation bonds in the amount not to exceed $9,000,000 for the purpose of constructing, reconstructing, extending, repairing and improving various streets, sidewalks, and street lighting throughout the City including acquiring any land or easements necessary therefor?”
The measure will need a majority of the vote to pass.
The authorization of the bonds will authorize the levy and collection of an annual tax in addition to the other taxes provided for by law on all taxable tangible property in the city sufficient to pay the interest and principal of the bonds for 20 years, according to the city ordinance that Wright City alderman approved during the Jan. 11 meeting.
If voters approve the measure, the first road project would be major repairs to the deteriorating Roelker Road.
But Mayor Michelle Heiliger said Wright City will have to borrow money to begin road repairs regardless of if voters approve the bond.
Approval of the bond would allow the city to take out more money at a lower interest rate and pay back the money faster.
“The way it was explained to us is you’re basically establishing a line of credit,” Heiliger said. “We can do a road and then start paying those bonds back and then borrow against that line of credit again for the next big road.”
Heiliger said the city hopes they will be able to pay back the bonds within five years, and then use the money from the expanding tax base so that the city wouldn’t need to use the bonds again.
“Once the tax base increases and we have income coming in from sales tax revenue, we’ll pay the bond off, it’ll be gone and then we’ll be able to maintain the streets based on our income, which we can’t do right now,” she said.
If voters do not approve the bond, the city would have access to less money at a higher interest rate.
“The thing to understand is it’ll be a shorter time for the city to pay back the funding and we’re borrowing less money if it is approved by the voters,” Heiliger said.
Heiliger said the city is pursuing the bond after twice having their application for the Safer Streets for All grant rejected.
“We’re investigating the opportunity to apply for it again,” Heiliger said.
But she emphasized the city cannot wait to begin work on Roelker Road with construction of the new high school scheduled to be completed before the end of 2024.
“We have to have the road completed by the time the school opens,” Heiliger said. “We can’t have 16 and 17 year old students driving on this road that’s potentially degrading as it is, but it’s only going to get worse. So we have to get this done.”
The school district is responsible for improving the road, including the addition of a slip lane.
But the city is looking at the entire road, from the railroad crossing to Fruit Farm Road, a distance of about two miles.
The city has employed Cochran Engineering to design the project.
“They’re going to design the project to be done in phases,” Heiliger said. “And we made the decision to have them go ahead and engineer down to Fruit Farm because we have to continue to go out for grant opportunities and to do that, you have to have engineering.”
It’s unknown exactly how much the project would cost at this time, but Heiliger said it will be expensive. When the city made repairs to less than a mile of Westwoods Road, the cost was $1 million.
Costs have increased by more than 20 percent since that work was completed.
“So when you’re operating on the budget that we operate on, a million dollars has to come out of savings because we do not have it in our general operating fund,” Heiliger said. “And when you continue to deplete savings as a municipality, that’s dangerous. If something significant would happen in our city and we didn’t have any money squirreled away, then the city itself would go bankrupt. And so we’re working really hard to be good stewards of the tax dollars and be realistic about what we can do.”
While the city is mainly focused on fixing Roelker Road, officials are also prepared to address other road concerns in the city.
“Once we go out for this money, it comes into the city, we would address all of our other local road projects as well,” Heiliger said. “So we would set our public works department loose on anything else that’s listed as a priority road that needs to be repaired now. I’m talking about slabs that need to be replaced in subdivisions, entrances to subdivisions that are eroding.”
The city has a list of priority road projects, Heiliger said.
“The estimate that our public works department has given us at this time is to do most of those repairs and get them in a good place,” she said. “It would be about $200,000. So we’ll take that money and do those repairs right away and try to get us ahead of the game.”
That would happen while the city is preparing for the Roelker Road project, the mayor said.
“We can start those other repairs while we’re waiting for the engineering and the bids to go out and all that,” she said. “So we’ve got a process moving.”
Heiliger said the city is preparing to meet with the community to discuss why the bond is important.
She also said city officials are more than happy to talk about the bond with any concerned member of the community.
“We’re open to all kinds of points of contact,” Heiliger said. “There’s a million ways to get a hold of anybody on our board.”
Heiliger believes residents understand the need for road improvements in Wright City, and believes recent history shows voters will back the bond.
“We have historically seen our community take the education that we offer and understand it,” Heiliger said. “They ask really good questions. They’re inquisitive, they come to the meetings, we get good feedback and we’ve not really struggled with this in the past. The people who live here understand what we’re dealing with.”
And she hopes those who may currently be opposed to the idea will have an open mind.
“Whether or not you agree with it, if we don’t address these issues now, they’re only going to escalate and get worse,” Heiliger said. “And so we can either get in front of the ball or we can constantly be chasing it, and we’ve been chasing it for a number of years. And at this point, we’ve just got to get to a point where we can slow the train down and get some of the infrastructure repaired before we can move forward anymore. … If we don’t start addressing some of this stuff, that’s going to get exceptionally expensive.”
The election is April 2. To be eligible to vote, residents must be registered no later than March 6.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com