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Elected board would help instill confidence in MSD

"Call the Tune," by Mike Anthony

Voters next week will consider the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District's $500 million bond issue, Proposition Y.

MSD officials say passage of the bond issue will help the sewer district comply with the federal Clean Water Act and help fund the new Lower Meramec River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakville.

No matter how you cast your ballot Feb. 3 on Proposition Y, the amount of money you pay the MSD each month will increase.

If voters approve the issuance of the $500 million in bonds, rates will increase to $22.38 per month by July 1, 2005 — up from the $16.87 now paid by most single-family homes.

However, if Proposition Y is not approved by voters, rates will increase to $24.52 per month by Jan. 1 and will increase to roughly $37 per month within a few years.

We believe voters should weigh Proposition Y carefully and decide how much they want to pay and when they want to pay it.

The real problem with the MSD is the lack of an accountable, elected Board of Trustees. That's the key here.

The issue is not how much money we give MSD trustees and when we give it to them. The real issue is to whom are they accountable?

The MSD board is comprised of three trustees appointed by the county executive and three appointed by the St. Louis mayor. It was just about a year ago when the late County Executive George R. "Buzz'' Westfall and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay asked for and received the resignations of five members of the six-member MSD Board of Trustees.

The problem with that is the two sat idly by for years while the former trustees showed a true lack of fiscal restraint, exercised poor management skills and handed out no-bid contracts to cronies and consultants.

While the new trustees may be doing a better job, they're still not accountable to ratepayers. The MSD Charter needs to be amended so the public — not the county executive and the St. Louis mayor — can decide who serves on the board.

Such a measure would go a long way toward ensuring that trustees would be accountable to the public and not the politicos who currently appoint them. We'd certainly have a lot more confidence in an elected board — enough confidence that we might even consider endorsing a $500 million bond issue. But that confidence certainly isn't there today.

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