Scott County discusses water supply issues

Saturday, August 15, 2009

BENTON, Mo. -- Two of the chief issues concerning Scott County's water supply -- dealing with the formation of a new district and helping residents without access -- were addressed Thursday.

First, problems with the Public Water Supply District No. 4, for which pipes are being placed, were discussed. There have been complaints regarding road damage by the crews.

"It seems our road program never has enough money, and we want to ensure our roads are the best they can be," said Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger. "When we start getting damages to our roads that we feel are uncalled for, we've always been able to work with the people that created the damages to repair them. As far as the county is concerned, we don't have the time nor the manpower, nor the money to go back and resolve those issues."

Burger also said there are issues with the placement of the pipes so near the roads in some cases.

"I think we're way too close to the roads," he said. "Once we start hauling grain and get heavy equipment and more traffic in there, those roads are going to break off and we're going to need more maintenance to get the roads ready for general traffic."

Burger said he and other commissioners are excited about the project and don't want the issues to put a damper on it.

John Chittenden with Waters Engineering said gaining easements from property owners would be a good way to solve both problems for future pipe to be placed.

"In the long term, it will be in the best interest of all -- it will be easier to install, easier to maintain, and away from the roads," he said.

However, as only one in three residents who can participate in the district has elected to do so, it will be difficult to gain easements from all those. The commissioners promised to help talk to any landowners needed.

A majority of the lasting damage is depressions in roads, caused by unloading heavy equipment.

General contractor Guy Sincola said there was no intention to cause damage. He said it would provide an area that could be used to unload equipment and do other tasks that may cause damage to blacktopped roads.

"We're trying to make arrangements to minimize damages," Sincola said. "We're willing to do anything we can to help gain easements and get away from the road. We don't want to be that close to the road, either."

However, the way some properties lie and the location of existing utilities make near the road the only choice, Sincola said. "The reality is, without easements, there is no option but the road in some areas," he said.

He and Chittenden have worked to address the two main concerns concerning the edge of roads, some of which have quite a dropoff. There will be backfill put in those close to the road to fix or avoid problems.

"Those trenches near the roadway need to be filled in," Chittenden said. "They are a big liability."

The crews were also asked to make cleanup more of a priority "to avoid unnecessary phone calls," said Chittenden.

Second meeting

Another meeting was held Thursday, this one to address the dozen or so households in the southwest end of the county that would like to have access to a public water supply district.

"This issue has been addressed several times but we always seem to run into a brick wall," Burger said. Financial restrictions have left those residents without hookups.

Gathered for that meeting were USDA Rural Development, Public Water Supply Districts 1 and 4 representatives, some of the affected residents and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

"I don't have the answers, but I know all these groups can come up with one," Burger said.

Phil Lyon, treasurer for the water district, said there is a possibility those in question can be added to the end of the first phase or second phase of Public Water Supply District No. 4, if funds are available. That would enable those involved to purchase water for their own supply.

Mark Smith of Public Water Supply District No. 1 also extended that entity's helping hand.

"We will be happy to help, as long as we can maintain the financial integrity of our clients," he said. The initial costs can be a financial roadblock, he said. "It seems to me that we would be the most feasible, but we can't come up with that money."

Chittenden estimated it will cost $150,000 to supply water to the cluster of 10 or so homes.

Phyllis Minner with USDA Rural Development said there may be some USDA funds available, but there is an issue of legality. State statutes require a water district be continuous, which would not be the case with either 1 or 4.

Burger said Missouri has received an additional $92 million in stimulus funding, which a project like this may fall under. With a Sept. 4 deadline, he suggested the residents in attendance form a committee to gauge interest among their neighbors. Then Chittenden will do a study to see what is the best solution -- which could also be hooking up to the water supply in Morehouse -- and the commission will submit a grant application.

"It should consider costs for all the options," Burger said.

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