Public hearing to be held regarding pending sale of Oronogo gas system

City and Spire officials will answer questions about the Nov. 2 ballot measure

Residents of Oronogo will be able to learn more and voice their opinions about a proposal to sell the municipal natural gas system to Spire during a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, at City Hall.

The Board of Aldermen on Monday scheduled the hearing and discussed answers to questions posed by Spire, which is expected to be represented by someone at the hearing.

One of the questions is about how the proceeds from the sale will be spent. The city is expected to receive $620,000 from Spire, plus a franchise fees for the next 20 years.

There were spending suggestions from Mayor Charles Wilkins and board members, but as City Attorney Derek Snyder pointed out, that will be a matter left to future boards.

If voters approve the sale on Nov. 2, the sale and purchase price will need to be approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The transition from municipal operation to Spire could occur as early as the spring of 2022.

GAS RATE GOING UP – BUT NOT BECAUSE OF THE PENDING SALE

Wilkins told board members he has been notified by the city’s natural gas supplier, Constellation, that the wholesale rate is expected to rise the rest of the year. That means the consumer price per unit will likely go up from $5.30 to $6.65.

Kima Francis (3rd Ward) summarized by saying, “If we don’t sell, they (rates) are going to go up. If we do sell, they are going to go up.”

Snyder said the city code allows the consumer gas rate to fluctuate automatically with the wholesale rate without board approval. The consumer rate equals the wholesale rate plus $1.20 for transporation and $0.20 for the city’s gas system operation fund.

MAYOR: ORONOGO NOT A SPEED TRAP

Wilkins sought to dispel the notion by some that the Oronogo is becoming a speed trap.

Police Chief Steven Weaver acknowledged his officers are making a lot of stops, but they are issuing a low percentage of citations.

For instance, Weaver said that although there are roughly 110 cases on the next municipal docket only 40 drivers are involved.

He said citations are rarely written for speeds less than 15 mph over the limit.

“I’m happy they’re (officers) out and not sitting at the station,” said Francis.

BIG WATER LEAK – BIG BILL

Shelby Wiskur, 21963 Ivy Road, complained to the board about an “outrageous water bill” caused by an undiscovered leak beneath her house.

She questioned the accuracy of the meter reading because she said there was little evidence of the leak.

“Water goes down,” especially in the type of soil we have here, explained Wilkins. “That’s why it was only damp underneath your house.”

The bill is especially high because Wiskur lives outside the city limits and is charged $7.50 per unit instead of the $4 per unit rate paid by city residents.

Tony Cantrell, public works superintendent, said this is the fist time a rural customer has had a massive leak.

Cyndi Jennings, city clerk, said four leaks were reported by city residents last month.

The policy is for the city to split the charged amount with the customer. In Wiskur’s case, she will have three months to pay off $665 in addition to her normal $85 monthly charge.

Wilkins said he didn’t want to set a precedent by forgiving more of Wiskur’s bill. 

The vote was 5-1 to follow policy, with Francis voting no. She had spoke in favor of making an exception.

“I apologize,” Wilkins told Wiskur, “but that’s the best we can do for you.”

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