After protests, a lawsuit and funding setbacks, Rocky Mount Sewer District board members finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and are prepared to move forward with a sewer system on the north shore.

After protests, a lawsuit and funding setbacks, Rocky Mount Sewer District board members finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and are prepared to move forward with a sewer system on the north shore.

The board announced at its meeting Wednesday it has sought out private funding options to build a wastewater treatment facility on Red Arrow Road (Y-13) in Rocky Mount.

The decision to forego state funding options comes after loan application rejections from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in November 2013 and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development last month.

The board met with representatives from Central Bank of the Lake of the Ozarks and Midwest Bank of Poplar Bluff on August 6 to discuss loaning the district money to construct the extended-aeration plant.

Board president Red Jennings said both banks were on board with issuing a loan.

"We want to get that thing (the facility) on the ground," Jennings said.

The board estimates the facility will cost $4.8 million. At the board's disposal is a $3 million grant with an expiration date of June 30, 2015. Private loans would account for the remaining $1.8 million needed.

Board treasurer Judy Kenworthy said the $1.8 million would either be split by the two aforementioned banks, or three ways. The board is waiting to hear back from the Bank of Versailles about also giving the district a loan.

The board already has a $508,000 loan from the Midwest Bank of Poplar Bluff to pay for engineering work performed by Schultz Surveying and Engineering, the district's engineering firm. That loan has accrued interest and is now worth $546,000.

The Red Arrow facility is the second of three plans the board came up with and now seems to be the final choice for phase one of a six-phase plan to bring a central sewer district to the north shore area.

Originally, the district planned an extended-aeration facility at the headwaters of Blue Spring Creek. The board scrapped that plan 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 last July, 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.

The third option for the district was a land application method, which required a large plot of land on which to spray effluent like a lawn sprinkler. The board pursued this method most recently, but found the inability to get a state-issued loan and the sheer cost of the project to be too much.

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.

"That would be a hard sale for those banks," Jennings said about getting private funding for that option.

The board decided to revisit the second plan for several reasons, despite the fact that the settlement limits the number of customers on phase one to 300. First, the plan is already set, the anti-degradation reports complete and the land purchased. Second, the board hopes getting a facility on the ground will act as a spark to gain momentum for the rest of the phases.

Engineers will submit small tweaks and addendum to the plan to DNR for approval in September. The board hopes to send the plan out for bid by Oct. 1, award the bid by Nov. 1 and complete construction by September 2015.

Although the meeting was the most upbeat in several months, old wounds again resurfaced.

Part-time residents Rodney and Aleace Dungan asked about the proposed monthly sewer payment. They also expressed concern with what they called the board's unwillingness to have the local community — many of whom live in the area part-time and do not have residency to vote locally — give input on the project.

"It should be affordable for everyone," Aleace Dungan said. "We shouldn't be penalized for owning a second home. We didn't get to vote on it."

The board reminded her that they do not decide voting requirements.

The proposed rate is $58 per consumer.

The shovels have nearly overturned soil twice for the district before an obstacle prevented construction, so it's easy to be skeptical about the success of this latest option.

But Kenworthy and the rest of the board seem optimistic that central sewers are in the near future for Rocky Mount.

"This is the one," she said.