If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Mike Scott
While 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, Kahoka Mayor Jerry Webber says the city accomplished a lot last year, despite those challenges
“We had to back off a couple things this year because COVID-19 affected our revenue,” Webber said. “But it was a pretty good year.”
Webber keeps a list of projects posted on the wall of the council room in City Hall as a visible reminder to himself and the aldermen of the projects that the city is working on. In an interview on Thursday, January 7, Webber recapped 2020’s projects, and looked ahead to 2021 and beyond.
Topping Webber’s list is the Prairie State Energy project in Illinois. It’s also Webber’s biggest frustration.
More than a decade ago, the City of Kahoka, along with dozens of other small to mid-sized municipalities across the Midwest, invested in the coal-fired Prairie State electrical plant and agreed to long-term contracts to purchase a fixed amount of electricity from the plant, on the promise of low-cost power at a predictable low cost. Since that time, the plant had delays and construction cost overruns, faced numerous environmental lawsuits, and the energy market has changed-making it a bad investment that costs the city money.
“Our goal is to divest ourselves from Prairie State,” said Webber. “But nobody wants our share.”
Webber pledged to keep working find a solution.
The next project on the list is the annual waterline replacement project. Each year, city crews replace sections of the old, cast iron water lines put in nearly a century ago. This year, the city replaced water lines on Jefferson and Washington Streets.
In 2021, the waterline replacement project will encompass the College Street and Eichorn Street areas in northwest Kahoka.
“We have five more years on this project, and then we’ll accelerate our work on the sewer project,” Webber said.
Among the issues facing Kahoka, and most cities in northeast Missouri, is inflow and infiltration into their sanitary sewer system. In short, the problem is ground water or run off water that finds its way into the sanitary system. In a heavy rain, that can cause the city’s wastewater lagoon to overflow, releasing wastewater into local streams and rivers.
The city can face steep fines from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources if the problem is not addressed.
Several years ago, the city contracted with VISU-Sewer to inspect, map and start repairs to the sanitary sewer system. VISU-Sewer then prioritized the repairs needed.
VISU-Sewer uses a balloon-like technology to reline the clay tile sewer pipes in the ground, preventing groundwater from getting into the sanitary system. Typically, the city spends between $120,000 to $140,000 on sewer repairs annually. In 2020, three new manholes were built, but no relining took place.
“I’d like to get them scheduled to do some relining this year,” said Webber.
Related to the sewer project is city’s lagoon.
“We are discharging more than DNR would like,” said Webber.
One way the city lowers the volume held in the lagoon is to irrigate it onto adjacent farmland.
“We have applied for a permit to irrigate five more areas, roughly 240 acres, but we haven’t received the permit yet,” he said.
The next item on the list is street paving. In 2020, West Commercial was repaved, along with spot repairs in other areas. The selection of which streets get paved depends on which streets were damaged by the waterline replacement project two years prior, as it takes two years for the fill to settle fully before paving.
“We didn’t do as much as we usually do in 2020, because our revenues were down,” Webber explained. Usually, the city spends about $125,000 annually on paving. This year, it was roughly $85,000.
In 2021, the paving project will focus on Clark Street.
Water quality is an ongoing concern, and the city recently started a project to address needed improvements.
“We have a lot of iron and molybdenum in our water,” Webber said.
A filtration system is being designed for the water generation plant in Wayland.
“We had French-Reneker make a proposal, but the cost was outrageous. We’re in the design phase with Four Points (Land Surveying and Engineering from Hannibal),” Webber said.
Four Points designed a similar system for the Clark County Water District. That project will extend into 2021 and beyond.
Repair to the city’s water tanks also got scratched off Webber’s list in 2020. Both the 600,000 gallon tank east of town and the 100,000 gallon tank at Wayland were inspected, repaired and repainted in 2020.
The final item on the mayor’s list was a review of the city’s rental lights. Some business and residence rent their outside or parking lot lights from the city.
“We updated our inventory and evaluated the cost of operation for those,” said Webber. Most rental customers saw a modest increase earlier this fall, when the city increased the overall electrical rates.
Moving forward into 2021, Webber listed several upcoming projects the city plans to undertake.
Webber reported the city will need to extend the sewer system near Dollar General, because Kahoka Dental is planning to move. In addition, Webber said that Brett Bertelli is planning to move his car lot and storage building business to that area.
“It won’t be a big project, but it needs to be big enough to serve those businesses,” Webber said.
Another project will be to get the pool open again.
“We’re looking at adding a slide this year,” he said.
“We’re also excited to have new construction happening in town,” Webber said, noting there are seven homes under construction currently.
Webber also listed good things happening in Kahoka’s business climate, including the expansion at Gregory Container, Brett Bertelli converting two building on the northwest corner of the square to Airbnb rentals, and the opening of the Break Room on the square.
Webber also took the opportunity to praise City of Kahoka employees.
“We have a fine group of employees,” he said.