BONNE TERRE – It’s only been a week since he took over as the city manager of Bonne Terre but Larry Barton is already settling into his new office and filling up his calendar with meetings.
Barton said he has three main goals for Bonne Terre: improving infrastructure; making progress with economic development; and getting back a good rapport with the citizens and city government.
Barton said he is open to suggestions and any constructive criticism. &#8220There’s a totally new outlook for Bonne Terre and it began Nov. 1,” he said.
He said he wants to give the city back to the citizens and let them see what the city is spending their money on.
He said anytime he is in the office, his office door will be open. He said he will never be too busy to talk to someone and he encourages people to bring their complaints and problems to him. He said he doesn’t want anyone taking the flack for something he should be taking it for.
&#8220I may not always have the right answer, but I’ll have an honest answer,” he said.
Barton said he hopes to get involved in town hall meetings. He has also started sending &#8220Thank You” cards to any residents he sees making improvements to their homes or yards. &#8220I sent out my first five last week,” he said.
One of his first endeavors as city manager will be to make dumplings for the Bonne Terre Senior Center chicken and dumplings fund-raiser Saturday.
&#8220I was volunteered (by Rev. Sally Ketterer),” he said. &#8220I will show up with my mother-in-law’s recipe. Anytime dumplings are to be made at my house, I’m always the one who does it.”
He asked former city councilwoman, Cindy Driemeier to help him with the dumplings. &#8220I think it will be fun,” he said.
They will start making the dumplings at 6:30 that morning. The dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bonne Terre Senior Center at 420 North Long. The cost is $6 for adults; $3.50 for children, 6-12 and free for children 5 and under.
&#8220I want to see as much commerce come in as it can,” he said, adding the city needs all the revenue they can get since the property tax was defeated.
He is hopeful that the Orchard Development project and the Industrial Park will see growth after the Old Orchard Road interchange is complete.
He said anything that’s going to happen is not going to happen overnight.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges for the city is its wastewater operations. He believes the problems were caused by lack of maintenance and poor management.
The city entered a settlement agreement with the state this spring over its wastewater issues. The settlement agreement requires the city to pay a $5,000 fine. However, a $59,000 fine hangs over their head if they again violate the Missouri Clean Water Law or fail to comply with the settlement agreement.
The Missouri Attorney General alleged that the city violated the Missouri Clean Water Law on at least three occasions from 2003 to 2005. The complaints centered around sludge flowing into Turkey Creek from Bonne Terre’s Northwest Wastewater Treatment facility. The spills into Turkey Creek were attributed to poor operation and maintenance and stormwaters overloading the system.
The city’s first step was to hire Alliance in October 2005 to take over operation of the wastewater department. They have also hired an engineer to evaluate the northwest treatment plant.
The engineer has determined that a third stage treatment is needed for the northwest treatment plant to meet effluent limits. The cost is currently estimated to be $855,000.
The cost to improve inflow and infiltration or separating storm water from sewer is estimated at another $850,000. A part of the process will be to identify, separate, reroute and reconstruct old storm sewers that currently tie into the sanitary system.
&#8220We will try to get voters’ approval for a bond issue and make improvements the state has demanded,” he said. A bond issue would help them secure a state revolving loan at an interest rate lower than they could get elsewhere.
He said he knows no one likes a tax increase or any more money coming out of their pockets but this is the only way they can ever gain a good relationship with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
&#8220We will ask voters to help and if they don’t, I guess we’ll have to go out and seek low-interest financing somewhere else,” he said.
He hopes that in five years, the city can develop economically and be successful with all these other endeavors.
Barton is no stranger to Bonne Terre. He served on the city council from 1976 to 1982. He served as an assistant to the city manager from 1982 to 1990.
He said he was groomed to take over as city manger back when he was an assistant but the council decided they wanted someone from out of town. He then took over as water and wastewater superintendent from 1990 to 1997.
He has also worked for the state and federal government but he enjoyed working with the city more than anything.
&#8220It’s nice to get back to where I’m dealing directly with people,” he said.
He said he has spent 55 of his 60 years in Bonne Terre.
&#8220When I graduated from high school, I wanted out of Bonne Terre,” he admitted. &#8220I couldn’t wait to get out of Bonne Terre and the Army seemed like the way to do it.”
He spent three years with the Army. He said once he got away, he couldn’t wait to get back to Bonne Terre.
Barton said he and his wife, Janet, have lived in the same house in Bonne Terre for 31 years. He said he is looking forward to the challenges of being city manager and he loves the town.
His wife, Janet, was serving a second term as councilwoman but resigned when he was hired as city manager to avoid any issues that could arise. Because her husband was an applicant, she was not present for the interviews or discussions pertaining to the hiring of the city manager.
The former city manager, Ron Thomure, resigned but will be staying on in a part-time contracted position to help with grants, planning and zoning and economic development.