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BT Aldermen come to grips with storm damage

Disc golfers play in the distance Monday night while a Bonne Terre City Park tree shows signs of the storm that hit the Parkland almost three weeks ago. The city says residents’ storm debris will be picked up first, then the damage in the city’s parks will be tended to. (Sarah Haas)

Three fall events also approved for street closures: St. Joe Fall Festival, NC Homecoming, Haunted Firehouse

SARAH HAAS, shaas@dailyjournalonline.com

Bonne Terre’s City Council, as well as many of its city workers, assessed damage from the storms at the beginning of the month and how the city is recovering. Aldermen also heard updated on infrastructural projects and approved requests to close the streets for three events this fall.

Storm aftermath

One of the chief topics at Monday night’s meeting of the Bonne Terre City Council was the ongoing cleanup from the powerful, early-August storms that felled trees, battered houses and caused power outages.

Alderwoman Julie Williams-Hahn said she was impressed by the city crews’ efforts to clear the debris. Alderwoman Andrea Richardson echoed the compliment.

Mayor Erik Schonhardt said, “The guys have done a good job so far, cleaning everything up and taking care of things,” and he asked City Administrator Shawn Kay if the work continued.

“We’re still picking up limbs, we haven’t been able to get them all quite yet,” Kay said. “We have two crews working on it. But if you drove around after the storm, you know that there was a mountain of limbs to clean up.”

Richardson acknowledged that first responders were out in the middle of it all.

Big River/Bonne Terre Fire Chief Dave Pratte said his crews were out, but he also credited the police department and the public works department who were also responding.

“Everybody stepped forward and it was hand in hand, all hands on deck when everything went on out there,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen this much damage in Bonne Terre, and so many trees down, in the past 50 years.”

Pratte added, the city warning sirens didn’t go off because the National Weather Service had only issued severe storm warnings, not a tornado warning. Richardson said, it sure looked like a funnel cloud, north of Bonne Terre.

Pratte said, “I responded at 10:30 out E Highway, almost to the county line, to trees down. When I got out there in my F-250, I was sitting still, and the wind slid me sideways.

Parks and Rec Director Kenny Farkas, left, and Bonne Terre Chamber Director Matt Crabtree, right, listen to Fire Chief Dave Pratte talk at Monday night’s Bonne Terre City Council meeting about the efforts to respond to the storm damage earlier this month. (Sarah Haas)

“I’ll say I seen a funnel cloud, but I wasn’t sure enough to call it on the radio — you know me, I don’t call wolf. By the time the crews got there to back me up, there was trees all over E highway… So, there was a funnel cloud in the air. And I don’t think it ever really touched down, but it got close enough that it tore stuff up.”

Police Lt. Bill Stegall said it was beautiful to see the city come together during the storm.

“Our officers were happy to be out and helping these guys and we’ll always be happy to pull limbs, or place hoses, whatever we have to do,” he said. “We’re proud to be wearing these patches that say ‘Bonne Terre.’”

Parks and Rec Director Kenny Farkas said he had just gotten a call from a disc golfer who asked when the limbs and downed trees would be cleaned up at the city park.

“Rest assured though, that the trees in the park and over the playground equipment are on our list of things to do, but it’s the last thing to do, because we have to get all the brush from every street,” Farkas said. “So patience is a virtue, for sure.”

Kay piggybacked on Farkas’ comment.

“We’ve had departmental discussions about it, and we chose to take care of our customers first,” Kay said about serving the taxpaying residents of the city. “It is sort of like the cobbler’s kids never has any shoes, because he takes care of his customers first. So we’re going to take care of all of our customers out in the community and then once that is completed, we’ll move into the parks and clean those up.”

Kay said, while he happened to be out of the country on vacation at the time of the storms, he was relieved and impressed by his co-workers’ response.

“It really makes me feel good to know that the city is in good hands and has great leadership, when I can leave and take a vacation and you don’t even notice I’m gone,” he said, adding, “Although I did have to rib Doug [Calvert, Bonne Terre police chief]. He always says, when I go out of town, ‘I’ll leave a rock where the city was, for when you get back,’ and I had to ask him this time, ‘Hey, where’s my rock?’”

City projects

Kay said there have been problems with the city’s wells of late, relating to lightning that took out the telemetry, the means by which the water system can be monitored without having to visit the system in person.

“So we’re having to hand work those wells in order to be able to continue to keep water in the towers. Not a big deal. But it is better when it’s automated,” he said.

Kay said the hefty project to replace some of the city’s water mains has begun, although “we had to do a little bit of a redesign, because between the time that the engineer did the topo (map) and designed it, and when we started the project, AT&T slipped in there and put in fiber (optic cable) where we intended to put the water main. So we had to do a little redesign but we’re back on course and moving forward with that.”

As Alderwoman Julie Williams-Hahn and Alderman Ray Stotler review the board’s business on their laptops, City Administrator Shawn Kay, who was feeling poorly, sequesters himself in the corner. The city’s audit was postponed Monday evening, since the accountant who would have presented it was contending with illness, as well. (Sarah Haas)

The project has started with saw-cutting on N. Division Street, smoothing the way for excavators.

The Community Development Block Grant will begin after this portion of the water project is complete.

“I had had hoped that we would get to that this fall, but the water project has not gone quite as quickly as we had anticipated,” he said. “I still think that we may bid the CDBG project this fall so that we’re ready to go in the spring as soon as the weather breaks.”

Kay briefly touched on several other projects, saying work on the new walking path at Lakeview Park continues; the downtown lighting and sidewalk project relied on an engineer’s environmental study before it can proceed; grant work to benefit the police and fire departments continues; Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. there will be a public hearing on the Tax Increment Financing district that’s being pursued so that Hubbard Construction can renovate the derelict Bonneville Plaza.

Pratte thanked Kay for catching that the “wrong hydrants” had been shipped to the city. The city ordered Mueller fire hydrants, and American Darling had been shipped instead. Kay noted the superiority of Mueller’s hydrants and told aldermen the city also had parts for Mueller’s in case they were needed, and there was no interest in introducing another brand’s differing parts.

Other city business

Because the accountant who would have reported on the city’s audit was sick, the report from Maloney, Wright and Robbins is being postponed.

The city’s fall clean-up dates have been set for Oct. 10-20. Anyone with large debris to be hauled away can make arrangements by calling City Clerk Mary Topping at City Hall.

The board approved:

  • St. Joseph Catholic Church’s request to close St. Joseph Street from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. for its annual fall festival on Sept. 24.
  • North County R-1 School District’s request to half traffic for the annual homecoming parade on Sept. 29.
  • Pratte’s request to close N. Allen Street from St. Joseph Street to Louise Street from 4-9 p.m. on Oct. 28 for the Haunted Firehouse.

Matt Crabtree was introduced as the new executive director of the Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce.

A public hearing was held at 6 p.m., but no one voiced any concerns regarding resident Kim Tyler’s request to rezone and replat a portion of 1 Pointview Dr., changing its designation from C-3 to C-2. The aldermen unanimously approved her request, which the Planning and Zoning Committee had also approved.

Resident Richard Turnbull, who lives on A Street, thanked the Bonne Terre Police Department during the public comments session at the top of the meeting.

“Especially Greg Stegall,” Turnbull said. “He assessed the situation at my home and he realized that his partner could handle it. He knows my kids were scared and he took the concern and the time to really notice my kids needed him and really play with them.

“…I just wanted to thank him and I’m really glad we have those kinds of people with the City of Bonne Terre.”

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