This time last year, Leadwood city officials were busy filling vacant staff positions and awaiting the construction of the new city hall. Now, Mayor Dennis Parks and the board of alderpersons are working out of the new city hall and have set their sights on accomplishing larger city projects.
“The major thing is that we’d like to get this water project going,” Parks said. “Right now, we’re waiting for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). We’ve got all the paperwork in and we’re waiting for the government to give us some funding and loans. If they do, we’ll go into the planning and engineering phase of the water system.”
In November, the board of alderpersons adopted new water rates as part of the preliminary requirements of the water project. In a previous hearing, Parks and representatives of Taylor Engineering and the USDA explained that in order for the city to be approved for financing, the water rates had to be raised in order to show that the water department would be able to make future payments.
After the system is put in place and water meters are installed, residents will begin paying a rate per gallons as opposed to the flat rate currently charged.
While the city has not been provided a timeline of progress on the project, Parks said he hopes it gets underway as soon as possible, and is working to make that happen as best he can.
“I’d like to hurry up and get it done,” he said. “People don’t like that we raised the water bills, and I understand that.
“I know the USDA has all the paperwork and everything they need. I’ve got a little bit of work with a bonding company to do for the pre-engineering. They’ll be here next week to pick up some paperwork and then they’ll send me some back to work on, for issuing the bonds for the pre-engineering.”
While the project has been controversial and difficult getting started, Parks said that once the city gets the project completed, more opportunities will be available to the city.
“We’re in a better position now than last year to get out utilities taken care of,” he said. “As far as residential growth, we haven’t grown that much. Right now, everybody’s mad and they don’t want to do anything because of the cost of the water bills, plus the fact that they can’t see any improvement.
“Once we get past this first stage and people start seeing engineering crews around here, I think they’ll change their mind a little bit.”
The city was considering a bond issue to repair city streets, but that project will likely be held off until after the water project is underway, as many city streets will be dug up during the process.
Parks said he understands the frustration of residents who are now paying higher water bills without seeing physical work being done, but he said at this stage much of the work is going on behind the scenes.
“The work that’s being done now is the paperwork I’m doing,” he said. “And people don’t get to see that. They can come and look at it if they want, but most people aren’t interested in that.”
In addition to the ongoing water project and the finishing touches on city hall and the normal city operations, Parks said he hopes to see properties in city limits cleaned up.
“Other than that, we’d like to clean up some of these properties around town,” he said. “We’d like to get some of our landlords and property owners to clean up a little bit and make it nicer. Some do and some don’t, but that’s every place you go.”
Parks described the increased water rates and struggle to get the water project on the way to completion as “growing pains,” as experienced by all cities at one point or another. He said 2018 will be a step toward a more prosperous and viable City of Leadwood.
Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at email@example.com.