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Leadwood receiving funds to replace water system

Kevin Brooks, former chief operator of Leadwood’s sewer system, addresses the board with his concerns about a lift station. Dan Schunks

Through a $3,363.300 USDA Development Grant

After suffering through decades of discolored, foul-smelling water, the residents of Leadwood received some much anticipated and long-awaited news Monday night during the monthly board of alderman meeting.

City Clerk Amanda Queen announced that the city, working in conjunction with Taylor Engineering, has been notified that they have received the financing to replace the existing water system. The bidding process will last from February to March and groundbreaking and actual work will begin in May of 2024.

Alderman Tom Radford asks former city employee Kevin Brooks why repairs were not made while he was overseeing the sewer system. Dan Schunks

Financing for the new water system comes from a USDA Development Grant of $3,363.300. A USDA Development loan of $2,129,000 and a Community Block Development Grant of $750,000 for a total of $6,242,300. Once bids are received and the true cost of the project is known, USDA Development has assured the city that they will meet any shortfall with additional loan and grant dollars.

The water system in Leadwood has been a point of exasperation and desperation for years. The system was originally constructed by the St. Joe Lead Company before Leadwood was incorporated. When St. Joe closed the Leadwood mine and began to pull out of the area, it sold the water system to the city. The system was not a free-flowing system, meaning there were dead ends without hydrants to drain out the water.

As a result, the water was and is often discolored and frequently has an odor, making residents wary of drinking it. The water is tested by the state and has passed all its periodic tests, yet its appearance and odor do nothing to relieve residents’ concerns. Water quality has been a major stumbling block to growth in Leadwood for years. The new system will completely replace the antiquated system.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, former city employee Kevin Brooks, who had been the chief operator of the sewer system, addressed the board with concerns about a lift station.

“I’d like to know what the city is doing or what we’re gonna’ do about these life stations, he said.”

City Clerk Queen responded that the city has hired a contracting company that will begin to address the lift station issue Dec. 5.

Brooks then asked, “How much is DNR going to fine the city over this?”

Queen responded, “There is no monetary fine attached to anything that we’ve talked to them about. We had a meeting with them again last week, and there was no mention of a fine. They’ve actually been very helpful in helping us get things squared away and tell us about grants that are available to help us out.”

Funding for these improvements and repairs is being taken from the remaining ARPA funds, as suggested by the Missouri Municipal League.

Brooks said that his figures showed there is currently a $48,000 surplus in the water department and a $13,000 surplus in the sewer. He also said his figures indicated that there were 435 residences being billed for water but only 375 for sewer. The city was not aware of such a discrepancy but indicated they would investigate to see if one exists. If it does, it has been in existence for quite some time.

Alderman Tom Radford asked Brooks, who was employed by the city for nine years, why repairs were not made while he was overseeing the sewer system. Brooks replied that repairs were made, but they were “Band-Aid” types of repairs designed to keep things functioning but not necessarily address the problem. The board and Brooks agreed that fixing things correctly takes time and communication with all the involved parties.

Chief of Police Christopher Heatherly addressed the board regarding complaints he had received about derelict houses in town, noting that they had expressed health and safety concerns.

“There have been 40 houses that have been cited for some ordinance violation, which includes allowing your dogs to run loose,” he said.

The chief also pointed out the problem of out-of-town property owners who allow them to decline and decay, as well as the difficulty of contacting those businesses to improve their properties. He also promised he’d try to crack down on speeding on several streets.

A request was made for a stop sign at Locust and Hickory streets. Alderman Radford agreed there was a problem but said that there is a process to follow before posting traffic signs and that the results would determine whether to place a stop sign there.

George Aubuchon expressed concern about a water meter leak at his home. He had made repairs to the line running into his house but said the leakage is continuing on the city’s side of the meter. He also said the coupling was lead.

He said that Roto-Rooter workers had volunteered to replace the coupling, but city employees told them no. His concern was that as the leakage continued, it was flowing over the sidewalk, and there was a danger of the water freezing and becoming a hazard to pedestrians. The board said the problem would be addressed immediately.

Mayor Anna Woods announced that the city’s Christmas decorations would be going up soon around town and at the park. She added that city equipment was being made ready for winter.

The next Leadwood Board of Alderman meeting will be at 6 p.m., Dec. 18, at city hall.

Dan Schunks is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at dschunks@dailyjournalonline.com.

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