By Mike Scott
“This council is very responsible as far as the city’s money,” Kahoka Mayor Jerry Webber in an interview in the council chambers on Friday afternoon. “We have a good group of people on the board, with business and construction experience, and a good group of city employees.”
On the wall of the council chambers, Webber has posted a large, handwritten list of action items and projects facing the council. When one item is completed, it is crossed off.
Many of the projects are multi-year projects, done in sections each year. Webber reviewed the list with The Media.
Prairie State Energy
Several years ago, the city purchased two megawatts of electrical capacity in the Prairie States coal-fired power plant in Illinois. The plan was to lock in low cost electricity for the city for several years.
“Our peak load is about three megawatts, and at the time it was a great deal,” Webber said.
It didn’t turn out that way. Costs soared, and the plant couldn’t deliver on the low-cost electricity.
“I’d like to sell our interest, if we can find a buyer,” said Webber.
Back in the mid-2000’s, the city was constantly fighting waterline breaks in the 100-year-old cast iron pipe that carry water. The city embarked on a self-managed program, approved by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, to replace its water lines with PVC pipes, which will not corrode.
“We have six or seven years more to complete the project,” Webber said. “It’s been a good program. It’s self-funded, and we haven’t had to borrow any money for it. We do it ourselves.”
Every year, the city spends around $50,000 on the materials for the project.
Every year, the city spends around $100,000 on street paving projects. The route of the paving usually follows the waterline replacement by two years.
“It takes two years for the rock and fill to settle,” Webber said. “This year (2019) we did West Cedar and South Cleveland. One goal was to fix the street entrances by Ayerco.”
Pavement was milled out to eliminate the abrupt difference between the street and the lots at both Ayerco and the car wash.
“West Commercial was 2018’s waterline project, so it will be paved this summer, and in 2021, it will be Clark Street,” Webber added.
Over time, many of the city’s old clay and cast iron sanitary and storm sewer pipes have cracked or broken, allowing water or sewage to escape. A few years ago, the city contracted with VISU-Sewer, a company that inspected the entire sewer system and developed a repair plan. One of the services VISU-Sewer provides is the relining of sewer pipes while still in the ground.
“Again, we have a multi-year plan, and we target about $50,000 per year,” Webber said.
“About two years ago, we figured out that we don’t know where all our rental lights are, or if we’re being paid for them,” Webber said.
Rental lights are extra city-owned lights, similar to streetlights, that are rented by residences and businesses.
The city began an inventory of every light to identify any that may be rental lights, and the council will receive a report soon.
“Our city lagoon is supposed to be no-discharge,” said Webber. “But we’re not.”
To address the issue, the council is looking to add more irrigation ground to spread the lagoon water on.
MoDNR will require soil testing and additional permits for expanded irrigation.
“We will have to negotiate who pays for what,” said Webber. “Right now, the city does not pay for the irrigation systems, but we do maintain the pumphouse.”
“Our water is safe, but it has high levels of iron and molybdenum, which are very hard on mechanical, like faucets,” Webber said.
The City has contracted with the Fairfield Iowa based engineering firm of French Renecker to design a three-phase system to remove the minerals. The system will involve aeration, settling and active filtration. No estimate of the cost is available at this time.
The swimming pool at O-Mak-O-Hak, which opened in 1976 is leaking, and the city is looking to make repairs. They have contracted with ACCO to pressure-test the pipes, and will look for other leaks when weather allows.
“We have no plans to get rid of the pool,” Webber said. “But it does need maintenance.”
At the December city council meeting, Mayor Webber announced that he would work on developing a new, enforceable, animal control ordinance in 2020. Previous ordinances have been ruled unenforceeable in court.