On June 2, residents of Peculiar, Missouri will vote on the sale of the City of Peculiar utility system to Missouri American Water. The purchase price is to be $16.9 million up front with an additional $300,000 paid out over the next three years. A legal memo describing the deal and the associated resolution is available online here, beginning on page 37.
Missouri American Water, naturally, is supportive of the plan and is confident it can deliver the same services to Peculiar residents they receive now and at a lower rate. A webpage in support of the proposal shows the recent rates in Peculiar compared to other American Water customers across Missouri, including Kansas City neighbors Platte County, Lawson, and St. Joseph. (Incidentally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims, “the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home” or around 9,000 gallons per month.)
At a time of increasing water rates in Kansas City, it might be worth considering such a deal here. Kansas Citians already look to private—albeit heavily regulated—companies for their electrical power and natural gas. Why not water too? And if such a sale here would include an upfront payment to the city as well as potentially improved management and lower rates over the long run, city leaders have a responsibility to consider the offer.
All of this hinges on a serious and substantive audit of the Water Department, as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has called for previously. That is a necessary first step so that taxpayers and any interested buyers know exactly what is at stake. Even without a looming financial crisis, Kansas Citians should be looking to shed costly burdens that can be better and more cheaply provided by others.