On Tuesday, the Neosho City Council voted to deny a local company's request that they be refunded or credited for past sewer charges.

The request came from Missouri Sugars LLC, who, after installing a sewer meter in March, discovered that 63 percent of their water consumption goes out in product, while 37 percent goes into sewer.

Based on this, the company figured up their sewer charges dating back to 2007, when they first opened in Neosho, and determined, based on actual sewer usage since the meter was installed, that they overpaid by $43,440, according to information presented to council by city manager Troy Royer.

However, Royer said the city's finance department also performed their own calculations, and determined that the number would have come in closer to $41,300.

Still, council members opted not to refund the business, noting that it would not be fair to other users, and that the company had had the option of installing a sewer meter from the start.

"They have been charged as everybody is charged, based on water consumption up to just this year," Royer said. "In March they decided o install a sewer meter, there is a provision in city code under 705.440 that if a business or industry wishes to meter their sewer output separately, they can at their own expense. They buy the meter and the maintenance of it and then we bill them based on that meter for the sewer output."

Royer noted that the city had billed Missouri Sugars correctly according to city code.

Neosho Public Works Director Mike Hightower said the companies are expected to purchase the meter themselves, which he said runs in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $3,000, while the city approves the type of meter and inspects it after installation. Then, he said, city officials read the meter once a month.

Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson said the option to industries to install a sewer meter has been available since 1992.
Davidson noted that the sewer meters are not applicable to residential homes or smaller businesses in Neosho.

However, he said businesses such as Missouri Sugars are a unique situation, as they can document how many gallons go out.

"I think it also raises the question of, how can we be proactive on business that can identify and sign under penalty of law or perjury that's what they use?" Davidson said. "How do we accommodate that?"

He said the downside to doing that would be that other users would end up paying more.

"Everybody else is going to pay more in the sense that we have less sewer, the same amount of debt, it does raise a question that I think needs to be addressed," Davidson said.

Councilman Tom Workman asked if Missouri Sugars was given the opportunity to install a sewer meter when they first located in Neosho.

Hightower said as that was several years ago, it's hard to track, but he does know that the option to install a sewer meter was available in city code long before that.

Councilman David Ruth said having the ordinance that allows for industry to use a sewer meter could be used as a tool in attracting large manufacturing to Neosho.

He said the city should also keep in mind that the ordinance should be promoted beyond the company finding it on the books.

Workman and Davidson agreed.

"I think we need to inform people that it's there," Workman said.

Davidson suggested to Royer and Hightower that the option of installing a sewer meter be among the paperwork required of industry when it locates in Neosho.

"Just to let them know, 'hey, this is an option to you, you have to pay for it, it's not free,' Davidson said. "So they can't say they weren't aware."

When asked, Hightower noted that there are other companies in Neosho who also utilize the sewer meter.
"I think you'd be hard pressed to reimburse them," Workman said.

"Given everything we've talked about, I think the code was there for them to utilize, the bill was here for them to analyze, they chose not to," Davidson added.

Council voted unanimously to reject Missouri Sugars LLC's request.

• • •

Council members also debated the city's annual Celebrate Neosho event Tuesday evening, when an agreement for the 2014 airshow came before them for approval.

The airshow, to be presented next year by Matt Younkin of Younkin Airshows, was ultimately approved by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hart and Ruth dissenting.

Their objection was to the date Younkin is listed in the agreement to perform – Saturday, June 28 – the Saturday before Independence Day.

The city has hosted Celebrate Neosho the Saturday before the Fourth of July holiday for the past several years and Hart and Ruth both questioned why the event is held early.

"I would be very supportive of this if it was held Friday, July 4," Ruth said.

Workman said he remembers the event being set for the Saturday prior to the holiday when the event was resurrected, after not being held for about 20 years.

"The reason the Saturday before the Fourth got started was because we had dropped ours for about 20 years and quit having it," Workman said. "We jumped back into the game, turned it into a big Celebrate Neosho deal, and we didn't want to get involved with everybody else's schedule and we wanted to be the first person out on the block."

Mike Eads, Neosho Fire Chief, said in his time serving on the committee for special events with the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, a problem the committee has run into is the inconsistency in city events in the past, with some stopping and starting again, or dates changing.

"I agree, I'd rather have it the Fourth of July weekend, or on the Fourth, but we've been consistently having it the weekend before, so everybody's used to it," Eads said. "Everybody knows that's when it's going to be."

Wes Franklin, the city's public relations and events coordinator, said Younkin's show will include the same Magic by Moonlight nighttime performance from the 2012 Celebrate Neosho event, as well as some new additions.

He said the contract also includes a daytime performance, and while not included in the contract, there has also been discussion of a skydiving performance prior to the daylight show.

Younkin delivered the city's Celebrate Neosho airshow in 2012, the first year the event was held at the Neosho airport.
This past summer local pilot Kyle Franklin, of Franklin's Flying Circus, presented the aerobatic performance.
The city is alternating the performers, Franklin said.

The cost of the agreement is $8,500, plus the costs of fuel, local transportation and lodging.

Ruth expressed concern with the unlimited extra costs, and city attorney Steve Hays said the city could look to include a "do not exceed" amount in the agreement to address the extra expenses.

The cost of the city's agreement with Franklin's Flying Circus in 2013 was also $8,500.

• • •

In other business:

• Council members also voted to approve $20,000 in expenditures from the city's hotel/motel tax to fund the Neosho Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament.

Of that amount, $10,000 will go toward the 2013 tournament, while the other $10,000 is set to go to the Neosho R-5 School District to cover costs from the 2011 tournament, when the city did not sponsor the tournament.

• Council members voted to approve a contract with APAC for several street overlay projects. Hightower said the work is expected to start in late October and wrap up by the end of November. The street improvements are part of a longterm street improvement plan that Hightower presented to council in July.

Council already accepted a bid from APAC, and only approved the agreement Tuesday evening.
The cost of the work is expected to be $140,064.

"So this means we're going to fix some streets?" Ruth said.

"It's a start," Hightower responded.

Hightower said residents should be able to get some warning before the street projects begin.

• Council members approved a year-end budget adjustment for the city's fiscal year 2013 budget, which wrapped up on Monday. The city started their new fiscal year on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Royer said the adjustments are a year-end cleanup, and noted that the city's department directors have been watching their budgets "diligently" throughout the year. The adjustment also fixed the amount of revenue that came in during the fiscal year.
"All of our revenues came in quite a bit above what we had budgeted, so we went ahead and adjusted all of the revenues to actuals," Royer explained.

• Council members also voted to approve a lease purchase agreement with U.S. Bancorp to pay for a new fire truck for the Neosho Fire Department. Eads told council the truck is almost finished and should arrive in Neosho at the end of October or first of November, at the latest. The amount to be financed is $350,624 at 1.83 percent over a five-year period.

Eads said he had hoped to have the new truck in time for the department's 125th anniversary celebration, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the Neosho Fall Festival, though the truck will not be ready in time.

• Councilmen voted to accept a bid of $11,126 from ASC Pumping to upgrade pumps at the Baxter Pump Station.
• Council voted to approve an agreement with Davis, Lynn and Moots, PC to perform their annual audit. The agreement covers auditing services for the fiscal year that ended Monday.

• Council members voted to approve the city's application for Region M Solid Waste Management grant monies. If awarded, the funds would benefit the city's recycling center.

• Council approved payment of an additional $916 fee from AT&T for relocation of the overhead phone lines at the city's water plant. The move, which is relocating the phone lines underground, is part of the city's water plant improvement project. The original agreement was an estimated $4,365.26.

• Council members heard from Neosho resident Nancy Wichter who questioned council about bow hunting at the Neosho airport. That was outlawed under a previous city administration, council said, though Royer said he would contact the Missouri Department of Conservation to ask about the possibility of a managed hunt.

• Council members also voted to appoint Jona Yost to the planning and zoning commission. While council regularly only considers letters of interest in their second meeting of the month, Yost's letter was considered early because of an upcoming planning and zoning meeting, and the commission's recent inability to reach a quorum.

• Council also voted, on final reading, to accept two annexation requests, for the properties located at 2826 Gordan Place, and at 2308 Bowler Place.

• Royer said he met with a representative from the Missouri Department of Transportation in regards to lowering the speed limit on the south end of the Neosho Boulevard. The council received a request from Municipal Judge Andy Wood in their Sept. 17 council meeting, to look into lowering the speed limit on Neosho Boulevard, between Daugherty Road and Walnut Street. The speed limit there is currently 45 miles per hour.

Royer said MoDOT will do two traffic counts, as well as set a speed radar and review accident reports in that area. He said that analysis will take three weeks and the city expects to receive a report and recommendation back from MoDOT by the end of October.