Residents In New Metro East City Vote To Dissolve Controversial Water And Sewer Utility
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
Residents of Cahokia, Alorton and Centreville voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to dissolve Commonfields of Cahokia, a water and sewer district.
Commonfields of Cahokia serves 7,000 customers in the three towns, which merged to become Cahokia Heights. The first slate of public officials for the new town also was elected Tuesday in uncontested races.
The referendum on Commonfields states: “Shall the Commonfields of Cahokia Public Water District be dissolved?”
The vote was 1,306 yes, 280 no, according to unofficial returns.
Dissolving Commonfields of Cahokia is among the last phases of the four-part consolidation of Alorton, Centreville and Cahokia, a campaign advertised as “Better Together”. The first phase was introduced last winter as residents voted to merge Alorton and Centreville. The second phase was voters’ approval of merging Cahokia with the other two towns.
Eliminating Centreville Township and Commonfields of Cahokia are the final phases of the plan. As of right now, there are no specific plans about dissolving Centreville Township.
The decision to dissolve Commonfields comes at a time in which the public utility has been under scrutiny for its management of Centreville’s crumbling sewer system.
Last summer, a lawsuit filed on behalf of Centreville residents named Commonfields, local governments and officials as defendants, saying they are responsible for failing to fix years of flooding and sewer issues.
The BND recently published a report on the connections between Commonfields, local politicians who worked for the agency and area campaign committees. Among them are State Sen. Chris Belt, superintendent of the public utility, and JoAnn Reed, now the former mayor of Alorton, who served clerk, cashier and board secretary of Commonfields.
Centreville Township Supervisor Curtis McCall Sr., Belt’s brother-in -law, was the board chairman for Commonfields. McCall officially became Cahokia Heights’ mayor Tuesday night. He ran unopposed.
It’s unclear when the water and sewer utility will be dissolved and whether it will be replaced by another entity.
The village of Cahokia has its own water and sewer department, and its geography and responsibilities overlap with the Commonfields district.
Dissolving the district was one of three referendums included on the ballot for Cahokia Heights on Tuesday night.
Voters also were asked whether the new town should have home rule and whether it should be added to the Cahokia Public Library District. Both referendums were passed.
DeAsia Paige is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.