Water and Wastewater Bond Elections
Client: Buhl, Wendell, Filer and Kimberly, Idaho
Building Community Support for Water and Wastewater Bond Elections, 2006-2010
Buhl, Wendell, Filer and Kimberly, Idaho
Our team has been highly successful in using public education as a means to garner public support. It worked for Buhl, Wendell and Filer where those communities faced EPA sanctions, and serious environmental and public health threats if critical improvements to their water and wastewater systems were not implemented immediately.
In Wendell and Filer, reaching out to people on their turf was an effective means of engaging the public in the decision-making process in a way that was comfortable for them. For example, information booths were set up at the coffee shop/truck stop frequented by local farmers, and at the bowling alley’s popular Friday pizza buffet. In addition, traditional communication methods were used - handouts distributed at annual picnics, presentations to civic groups, public open houses, key stakeholder meetings and utility bill inserts.
Our team helped the cities determine a preferred alternative for wastewater treatment (in all cases, the public favored the more expensive facility). In Buhl, more than two-thirds of voters approved a $15 million bond, despite the fact that passage of the bond would raise user rates by an estimated $17-$47 per month.
In Filer and Wendell, bonds also passed - $12.5 million in Filer, $11.2 million in Wendell - despite a monthly user rate increase of $60-$80.
Based on the success of these projects, The Langdon Group was called upon again by the City of Kimberly. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality provided Kimberly an opportunity to borrow federal stimulus funds for municipal improvements that fit into the “green project” classification. The installation of water meters provided that fit.
A passed revenue bond election would position Kimberly to borrow approximately $6.6 million of this federal money, at a one percent interest rate, to be paid back within 30 years. Of this amount, $1 million will have no repayment requirement. Serious concerns were raised by the public early in the process about monthly rate increases under a new metered system. To address those concerns prior to the election, the project team held a second public meeting, issued additional news releases, and worked with the mayor to craft a guest editorial for the local paper.
Due to the city’s extremely limited budget, The Langdon Group worked with local volunteers to distribute information door-to-door. Additional outreach efforts coordinated by Langdon staff included meetings with local businesses, two public open houses, civic group presentations and an election-day informational kiosk on Main Street.
In the end, the bond passed on a simple majority, by 23 votes (289-266) despite an increase of monthly user rates of $20-$30.