Farmington Mayor Mit Landrum concluded the last council meeting of 2015 with words of optimism for the future – and looking back at the accomplishments of the last 12 months.
“2016 is going to be another good year for the city of Farmington,” Landrum said in his final mayor’s report for 2015, noting the year has been “one of the best years in the history of this town.”
“I’m proud of all of you,” Landrum said to the council. “I think the council, the city employees and everybody has done a wonderful job.
“With what’s happened in 2015…we opened the library, renovated the police station, paved streets and put in sidewalks all around town, the splash pad at the Farmington Water Park, replaced the light poles along West Columbia Street. A lot of things that really changed this town for the better.”
Landrum touched on the no-smoking ordinance which voters passed in November of this year.
“I know some people think (the ban) is bad,” he acknowledged. “I think it’s one of the best things we did…2015 was a great year for the people in Farmington.”
And, as was discussed during the meeting, the last week of the year proved to be a soggy one as well.
Among the first items discussed at the meeting was the rain showers which started on Dec. 26 and did not let up until shortly before the meeting on Dec. 28
Farmington City Administrator Greg Beavers said certain areas of the community are prone to localized flooding in the event of heavy rains.
“The largest problem we have in Farmington is that our sewer system is basically floating in ground water right now because of the saturation,” he said on Monday, just after the heavy rains subsided. “Every manhole, every fracture in the sewer mains around town is taking on water and when it is surcharged like that, people get sewer back-ups sometimes into their homes.”
Beavers noted the city received a handful of calls from homeowners experiencing back-ups in their homes, “but not the extent you thought it would have been with the amount of rainfall,” he added.
“Our sewer system is completely surcharged today,” Beavers said during the Public Works report at the meeting. “Two of the lift stations were exceeding capacity and overflowing. That’s probably going to subside now that it has stopped raining.”
Beavers expressed apologies on behalf of the city for any inconvenience residents experience during this time.
On the subject of sewers, the council had a first reading on an increase in sewer rates. The rate increase would be in the amount of $1 per unit used – or approximately $5 per household.
Beavers said the money would be used to replace aging equipment at both the west and east plants at a cost of approximately $6 million to be financed in a 10-year period.
“Beyond (the improvements), we’ll be doing a tremendous amount of work on the collection system for the next several years to try and stop some of the storm water that gets in the system and causes problems like we’ve had,” he said.
The matter will be up for a second reading and council action at next month’s meeting. If approved, the rate increase would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2016.
During the meeting, Landrum said it has been a number of years since the city last enacted a sewer increase rate.
“We are not setting the rate based on what our neighbors are paying,” he said. “We set them based upon what we have to have for the city services to be self-sufficient.”
Ward II Councilwoman Lynn Crites said the rate increase will be used to fund projects not as visible, giving the examples of “a new splash pad, a new water park or a new library” which were funded by the one-half cent sales tax extension passed by voters in November of 2013.
“But, we have to have an updated sewer system,” she said.
In other business, the council approved a resolution for the city to enter into an Administrative Order on Consent with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Beavers explained the resolution address the problems with the radionuclides on well 15, located on Stonegate Street.
“The issue (in the order) is related not to the compliance of the water, but the inability of the laboratory in Missouri to test for these specific properties in our water that contribute to the gross alpha emitters,” he said, noting the corrections to the issue addressed in order can be made by using a different test method at a lab in Casper, Wyoming. The lab uses an EPA-approved test method to account for the difference in the uranium isotopes present in that particular well, which Beavers said is not in service at this time.
The second issue addressed by the order is the periodic occurrence of bacteria in the water system. Beavers said the bacteria is not found in the wells, but is picked up along the 100-plus miles of line in the system or through the service lines.
The bacteria tested is not dangerous, Beavers said, but there could be a potential for the “bad bacteria” to enter the system. The city will begin the installation of chlorination systems after the first of the year, with the chlorination to begin in February.
Ward II Councilman John Crouch addressed the resolution, stating the city has been working with the DNR on the bacterial and radionuclide problem for years and his feeling that the wording in the document was “harsh.”
“Today, we are the largest unchlorinated water system in the state of Missouri,” Beavers said during the meeting. “It was an eventuality that we were going to have to chlorinate.”
He added the “AOC” with the DNR will give the city a level of protection in the future, noting the city is working on the matter and “doing what we need to do and there is a hard record of it.”
On a personal note, Beavers said he does not like the taste of chlorinated water.
“Bear with us a little bit,” he said on the process of chlorinating the water. “It does take a little bit of tweaking to get the levels exactly where we want them. We need to maintain a residual level of one-half part per million throughout the water system. That means, at the injection point (the level) may be a little higher and at other places a little lower.
“I have confidence working through it we can get that balance in a couple of days. And, if you are particularly sensitive to the taste of chlorine in your water as I am…I don’t like it at all…you can purchase a water filter at your local hardware store to put on your sink.”
The council next meets in regular session on Jan. 14, 2016.
As of Dec. 29, the following individuals have filed for the open seats on the Farmington City Council.
Incumbent Larry Forsythe filed for the seat in Ward I. Incumbent Darrel Holdman filed for the seat in Ward III. Bart Goetz filed for the seat in Ward IV. Incumbent Lynn Crites will not be seeking another term in Ward II.
All seats are for two-year terms.
The council also held first readings on two propositions for the April 5, 2016 ballot. One is for a 10-year extension on the 5 percent hotel/motel tax that has been in effect for seven years to provide for tourism marketing. The second is to continue the application of collection of local sales tax on the titling of motor vehicles, trailers, boats and outboard motors purchased out of state.
Second readings and final council action on both matters will be held at a future council meeting.
The council also approved a lease purchase financing agreement with First State Community Bank for an electric substation on the north end of town for areas serving the west outer road. The financing agreement is $955,000 for a period of 5 years. The total cost of the project is around $1.1 million.
The land for the substation has been acquired and the equipment is ordered. Farmington City Administrator Greg Beavers said following site work this spring, the substation should be online in either June or July of 2016.
The council also approved the purchase of new aerobic exercise equipment at the Farmington Civic Center for $63,180.
It was also announced a banner contest hosted by the Mineral Area Council on the Arts will be held again. This year will feature a literary figures theme to focus on the 100th anniversary of the Farmington Public Library.
Forty banners designed by local school children will be selected to hang in downtown Farmington this spring.
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or firstname.lastname@example.org