Water treatment plant

The City Council will hear a proposal from Missouri American Water on Monday that could lead to discussions about potentially selling the city’s wastewater system.

Missouri American Water will meet with the St. Joseph City Council next week to discuss the possibility of purchasing the city’s sewer system or becoming involved in the operation.

The company has purchased sewer systems around the country and will meet with city leaders on Monday to discuss whether or not St. Joseph would be interested in doing business.

Missouri American Water Senior Manager in Northwest Missouri Jody Carlson said the meeting will only be informative and is a very early step in a process that can take years.

“This is just a general introductory conversation with the City Council about what it might look like if they were interested in doing something else, other than keeping the system for themselves,” Carlson said.

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray said the complete sale of the sewer system isn’t the only possibility that will be discussed.

“There are various options,” McMurray said. “They could purchase the plant, they would then be a taxpayer and pay taxes, they could run the plant and we’d retain the asset, there are lots of possibilities but the first step is: Is the council interested in pursuing a proposal?”

He said he is not particularly interested in completely selling the system, but he is interested in maybe partnering in a different way.

“I’m reluctant to sell a multimillion asset, but I’m not reluctant at all to take a look at different options to run more efficiently and effectively and perhaps even get the sewer rates lowered,” McMurray said.

McMurray said there would be pros and cons to selling. He said sewer rates could be lower and debts that the city has accrued through mandated wastewater treatment projects would be passed along to the new owners. Future environmental mandates involving the sewer would be the responsibility of Missouri American Water, not the city.

However, rates would not be set locally by the City Council as they are now, and would instead be set by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Carlson said meeting with the council can help identify more pros and cons. He said Missouri American wants to identify what it would look like if they bought the system or a part of the operation, and if it is not a good fit, they will not pursue the deal.

“We would want to do something where we could lower rates, improve the infrastructure here, things along those lines,” Carlson said. “If it wasn’t a good fit for the community and for us as well, then we wouldn’t look at continuing down that road.”

Carlson said, if the council is interested in either selling or working together, Missouri American would seek a letter of intent or some form of formal agreement to look at the asset and debt financial information of the sewer system. If the numbers seem viable, Missouri American could make an offer.

The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday in the fourth floor conference room at City Hall.

Brendan Welch can be reached

at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.