A sewer district once on the verge of construction on the north shore of the Lake of the Ozarks now faces an uncertain future as board members scramble to secure enough funding for a facility.

A sewer district once on the verge of construction on the north shore of the Lake of the Ozarks now faces an uncertain future as board members scramble to secure enough funding for a facility.

The hurdles the Rocky Mount Sewer District must overcome have become so significant, sewer board president Red Jennings issued a dire prediction about the fate of the district.

“I want to tell you something, but I can’t,” Jennings said at the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, June 25. “I used to think we were going to get it (a sewer system). I don’t think we’re going to get it.”

The most recent struggle for the board revolves around attaining enough funding to build a system. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources denied the district’s application for a $1.3 million loan in November 2013. 

Jennings expressed frustration with the state department, saying the district followed DNR’s instruction to a tee. The proposal submitted last year by the district outlined the plans for an extended-aeration facility off of Route Y on Red Arrow Road in Rocky Mount. The loan would have supplemented an existing grant the district has.

With the rejection of the application, the board submitted new proposals to DNR and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development earlier this year for a land application method.  The land application method would require more than 100 acres of level property — a rarity on the hilly north shore — to spray effluent on a plot of land like a lawn sprinkler. The plan requires a plastic-lined lagoon large enough to hold four months of winter effluent.

The board found a 164-acre parcel of land, the but had no luck convincing the owner to sell, even though they submitted a bid over the market value per acre.

The inability to purchase the land is just another setback in a series of blows to the district. 

Originally, the district planned an extended-aeration facility at the headwaters of Blue Spring Creek. The board scrapped the original plan for a facility at the headwaters of Blue Spring Creek when residents on the creek organized and protested the plan. That plot of land sold in December 2013 for a little more than $17,000.

A second plan — the Red Arrow Road facility — met resistance from homeowners in Lick Branch Cove. A quickly-formed Homeowners Association sued the district a mere few weeks before crews were supposed to break ground on construction, citing ecological concerns of having effluent drain into their cove. The HOA settled with the district, providing that no other homes outside those on phase one be connected to the treatment facility, in effect making the facility not cost effective.

A land application is now the third option for the district, which has a $3 million grant with an expiration date of June 30, 2015. Jennings estimated a land application method would cost $6.2 million, but in the long run would serve many more people than the plan limited by the settlement.

“We got so close,” Jennings said. “I’m so gun-shy because the third time is supposed to be the charm, but I don’t know anymore.”

Stan Schultz with Schultz Surveying and Engineering — the district’s engineering firm — said the problem lies not with the land application proposal sent to USDA and DNR, but with the politics involved. 

“I’m ready to go to the mat to defend our plan with Rural Development,” he said.

He also encouraged the board to contact the offices of Vicky Hartzler and Claire McCaskill to put pressure on the USDA to get something going.

Board members say no matter what happens, a new obstacle arises to prevent the district from moving forward.

Jennings was so dismayed at the meeting, he threatened to resign as president of board.

“We can still do it and I’d hate to see you leave Red,” Trustee J.R. Wyatt said.

“You said we’re in this together,” treasurer Judy Kenworthy reminded.

The district was formed by a vote in 2003. Miller County voters rejected the formation, so the sewer district is comprised entirely within the southeast portion of Morgan County.