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Eyesores addressed at county meeting

Friday, May 6, 2005

CHARLESTON - The east and west Wolf Hole laterals of Ditch 14 in Charleston are eyesores, according to the Charleston City Council.

David Brewer, city manager for Charleston, met with Mississippi County commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday to present the Council's request for the county to clean up the Wolf Hole laterals.

The Council's preference is for the county to put concrete conduit in and cover the ditch.

"The biggest problem is (getting funding) help," said Commissioner Martin Lucas said.

Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant is probably out of the question as the area will not meet the low-to-middle income requirements. "It's hard to get that low-to-middle income anymore," he said.

A less-expensive alternative to a covered drainage system would be putting a concrete bottom in the ditch so it could be easily be cleaned out with a small front-end loader.

The county had applied for funding for this sort of project in 2001, officials recalled, but withdrew the application.

"We probably didn't have the money," Blumenberg said.

County Clerk Junior DeLay said the total projected cost for the project in 2001 was $378,300 with a local match from the county of $119,000 and a local match from the city of $31,000.

Those plans called for 7-inch thick concrete for a 12-foot wide bottom and concrete running up the banks of the ditch about 5-feet on each side. The plans also included two feet of crushed stone as a base.

"It's a mushy bottom," Commissioner Homer Oliver said. "It takes something to hold the concrete."

Blumenberg said the cost for concrete then was only $24 per cubic yard as compared with around $60 now. He estimated with the higher concrete prices as well as higher prices for rock, steel and fuel, the project would probably cost $600,000 to do now.

In related business, commissioners also set ditch maintenance tax rates for 2005. Taxes for all the ditches were left at their current rate except the rate for Ditch 14.

"I think 14 needs to go to the ceiling," Lucas said.

Commissioners agreed and raised the rate for Ditch 14 from 14.4 cents to 16.4 cents which should bring in an additional $2,400 for the year, according to DeLay. "We'll get another good mile of mowing," Blumenberg said of the additional funds.

Many of the other ditches the county is responsible for maintaining are not generating enough revenue to keep up with what needs to be done and would not bring in enough money even if the rates were raised to the ceilings, according to county officials.

"I sure wish we could consolidate the ditches," Oliver said.

In other Mississippi County news:

* The county airport no longer has a fixed-base operator.

"The skydivers are leaving," Blumenberg said. "They're going to move out."

The SEMO Skydiving Club was apparently either unable to secure the $2 million liability insurance policy as fixed base operators or unwilling to pay the premium.

The club did a good job maintaining the airport, according to commissioners, but the fixed base operator must have the appropriate liability coverage.

Commissioners discussed having county crews spraying the grass in a solid band around the runway lights instead of trying to mow around them which has resulted in damaged lights in the past.

The skydiving club has requested a month to move out, clean up the facilities, and to pump the remaining gas out of the fuel tank, Blumenberg said.

Commissioners also agreed to have county crews dig up and remove the airport's fuel tank and then pay for the groundwater testing to officially close out the tank with the Department of Natural Resources.

Blumenberg said he hopes it can be done for less than $10,000.

While testing the groundwater to close out the previous tanks at the airport, it was discovered that the new tank was never properly registered with DNR. The agency then sent notice of several deficiencies that needed to be addressed leading to the decision to place the tank on inactive status.

Commissioners agreed they should have put in an above-ground fuel tank. "We should have never allowed it in the ground," Blumenberg said.

DeLay said the county needs documentation on where the fuel removed from the tank goes.

* County officials will meet with Matt Sorenson from Midland GIS Solutions at 2 p.m. May 19 to see if the county's geographic information system really can print maps like those shown by Midland representatives at a recent county commission meeting.

County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson has been invited to attend.