The Branson Board of Aldermen voted down an extension to a sewer line agreement with Taney County, and with it a solution proposed by Mayor Larry Milton to solve a long standing problem in a Branson neighborhood.
The vote came on Bill 6158, which is in reference to the city’s planned 2021 Sewer System Improvement Projects. The city obtained part of the county’s ½ cent sewer sales tax for Branson’s improvement projects, as the funds are allotted to projects within the county which meet the criteria mentioned in the sales tax usage guidelines.
City staff told the board the project in Country Bluff Estates has been delayed because of issues with a Corps of Engineers permit, but because of movement in this area, an extension of time on the agreement would allow completion of the project. The extension would have taken the end date from May 2022 to December 2022.
The extension would help a development providing low income housing for the city.
The extension drew heated debate from the public, developer Dan Ruda, and several board members, because the development in question has been the subject of a campaign spearheaded by Country Bluff resident Cherry Webster, who has attended dozens of meetings discussing Ruda and complaining about stormwater runoff in her neighborhood from the development property.
Milton then spoke of a potential solution he had worked out to solve the water runoff problem in Country Bluff, and provided the runoff detention residents said at a previous meeting with the mayor they wanted put in place.
“There is a property adjoining Dan’s, which has a lot of runoff which runs through Dan’s property,” Milton said. “So from a city perspective, the city said depending on the cost, the city would be willing to pay for half of the stormwater detention area if we can size it large enough to retain the water coming from the other property.
“I went and met with the Country Bluff homeowners association and presented this proposal to them about seven weeks ago. Since then, it’s been determined (at) the stormwater (detention area) we’re going to build, and Dan is giving up the land, there was additional water which would not be caught in this detention basin. So they’re coming up with berms to direct water into the basin.”
The retention pond would be designed to withstand a 100-year flood incident, far above the 25-year plan which was part of the initial discussions. The construction would stop water from flowing over the road in the development, and reduce the amount of erosion caused by runoff.
Despite the mayor’s efforts to fix the problem, aldermen voted down the extension 4-2, with Fenton and Cooper supporting the extension and mayor’s solution. Branson Tri-Lakes News reached out to the four no voting aldermen, Denham, LeBlanc, Howden, and Rodriguez, and asked them how voting no was in the best interest of the city of Branson, with only Denham responding to our inquiry by press time.
“I believe tax dollars should be spent wisely and specifically on a well thought out and approved plan submittal, which justifies the dollars being requested,” Denham said. “The application submitted to Taney County did not, to my knowledge, ever go through the Board of Aldermen. This specific project will most likely take double the dollars to complete. An abstract plan, a damaged adjoining neighborhood and the continued lack of approval from the Corps of Engineers, along with a neighboring property owner not willing to grant an easement until the storm water issue has been addressed, kept me from voting yes. The developer being granted yet another extension, (who made no forward moment since the initial expiration in December 2021), should, in my opinion, not be granted yet another extension. It appeared to me to be a wasteful way to spend tax dollars. The city will have the opportunity to submit a new application, with a more specific plan, at the County’s next round of submittal requests.”
Milton expressed disappointment in the aldermen’s actions without specifically criticizing them, and noted their vote dispels a major complaint of his critics.
“Clearly, these are not my hand picked ‘yes’ men,” Milton told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “I have always been convinced the collective agreement of a board’s decision is much healthier than the sole decisions of just one person. One person making decisions is a dictator style of governing, a board’s decision is democracy.”
Despite the setback to his proposal to fix the Country Bluff flooding issue, the mayor expressed a positive overall look.
“Our city is moving in a clear and positive direction,” Milton said. “The Board, and myself, are receiving a tremendous amount of accolades and appreciation from within City Hall and throughout our community. I am more proud than ever to be the Mayor of Branson.”
Because of the failure of Bill 6158, the following bill on the agenda to adjust funds for additional sewer fund expenses was rendered moot.
A follow up story in Wednesday’s Branson Tri-Lakes News will examine the controversial debate leading to the vote against the measure.