The year 2006 has been a year of changes for Bonne Terre.
In 2006, the mayor, a council member and the city manager resigned all for different personal reasons.
Ron Thomure turned in his resignation as city manager in August after working for the city about a year. At the time, then-Mayor Sue Wilke said Thomure, who lives in Farmington, wanted to go in a new direction and had made plans to go into real estate. She credited Thomure with helping the city stay on track and praised him for his efforts on behalf of the city.
The council planned to keep him on as a part-time consultant but terminated him in December because the cost was deemed too much for the city.
With the exit of Thomure as city manager on Nov. 1, the council hired Larry Barton as the new city manager. Larry’s wife, Janet, decided to submit her resignation as councilwoman to avoid any potential conflicts.
Wilke submitted her resignation in November, citing health and family reasons.
The council has appointed former councilmen, Fred Willard and Lee Roy Calvert to take over those positions until April. Gene Archer, who was appointed mayor, also is up for re-election in April but said he would not run again. None of the men have filed to run in April. So far, Matt Leary, Ed Plunkett and Charles Wigger have filed for the three open seats. The last day to file is Jan. 16.
Besides deciding who will be on the council in April, residents will decide whether the city will continue with its current city manager-council form of government.
Bob Marler succeeded in a petition to get a question on the April ballot – &#8220Shall the city manager form of government for the City of Bonne Terre be continued?”
A total of 351 of the 413 signatures that he collected were accepted by the county clerk as being registered voters. Marler needed just 156 signatures to get the question on the ballot.
Currently, five council members are elected at-large. After each election, the council appoints one of the members to serve as mayor.
Barton said if voters approved the question, it would be like starting all over again and re-establishing the government. If voters said they did not want to continue the current form of government, they would revert back to the alderman form of government.
Barton said he believes the state would decide how many wards the city would have. A special election would have to be held to elect aldermen from each of the wards.
He said the mayor would be elected at-large and would run the daily activities. He said an administrator would be needed to work on things like grants and economic development.
After years of being torn up, Church Street has a smooth surface. The project cost the city about $180,000.
Since the repaving project, city officials have constantly been monitoring the street for heavy truck traffic and speeding.
The police department determined there is not a speeding problem on the heavily-traveled road. The study in November, however, was conducted during the off-season for construction.
Barton said they will continue to monitor Church Street and may do some different things in April or May. The police department has recommended reducing the speed limit for trucks weighing more than 15,000 to 15 mph on all roads.
The biggest issue the city faces involves its sewer system.
The issue centers around a filed complaint and then a settlement agreement worked out between the city, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.
The settlement agreement, which was signed by parties in April and May, 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.
Nixon 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 $5,000 fine the city must pay is only a small part of the settlement. The city’s first step was to hand over operation of the wastewater treatment plants to professional operators – Alliance, which took over the sewer operations in October 2005 and the water operations a year later.
The city also hired an engineer to evaluate the northwest treatment plant as was required within 60 days of the settlement agreement. The engineer has recommended physical changes to the plant.
It is stated in the agreement that if changes are recommended, the city has to submit plans and an application for a construction permit within 180 days of the engineer’s evaluation. Then within 270 days of the department’s issuance of a construction permit, Bonne Terre needs to complete the construction of the permitted upgrades. Within 60 days of the completion of the upgrades, the city will need to achieve compliance with all applicable permit effluent limits.
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.
They have submitted a report on inflow and infiltration and they are in the process of investigating and identifying a program for upgrade of their collection system.
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. Heavy rainwater currently overload the treatment plants.
Barton said they are still figuring out how to finance this estimated $1.8 million problem. The upgrades have to be complete by late 2008.
The city asked residents to approve a property tax in August but the issue failed – with 70 percent voting against it. The property tax would have been used to improve the sewer system and pay for the new city complex.
One option the council is still considering for sewer improvements is a bond issue to allow the city to apply for a state revolving fund loan at a low interest rate. This loan must be secured by the bond issue which would also authorize the city to raise rates by covering the debt service on the loan.
New City Hall
Details have been worked out for the new city hall/municipal complex. The city hall offices will take up the first floor of the old Bonne Terre High School while the basement will be occupied by the police department. In a separate agreement with owner, Sharo Shirshekan, the senior center will move in next door.
The school district, city and Shirshekan are in discussions about converting the old gym into a fire station. Currently, the district is determining if there is mold in the building and whether they want to keep the building or trade it for another piece of property.
Barton hopes the city will be able to move in the city complex in September.
The Southeast Missouri Agency on Aging began withholding money from the senior center last November because they were not receiving reports.
After months of struggles, Kathy Rawson, who served as both the director and a cook, agreed to step down as director and remain at the center as a cook. The city hired a new senior center director, Kimberly Dollar.
Funding was finally restored in May. They have been reimbursed for November through May. The center also began a buffet-style lunch.
The St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority is working to get a business into the incubator building in the Bonne Terre Industrial Park.
A group of people are working with the city to reopen the abandoned Bonne Terre airport for use when the Festus airport closes. No decisions have been made.