Council still dealing with flooding

Jacob Lane · Thursday, July 24, 2014
There was a lot of water talk at the West Liberty city council meeting on Tuesday, July 15. From complaints to praise, flooding effects dominated the meeting.

According to City Manager Lawrence McNaul, flooding has caused an estimated $130,000 in damage to West Liberty's infrastructure as well as city cleanup. As the weeks wear on, the number only rises.

More than five inches of rain fell on June 30, flooding everything from parks to basements. Several water drains overflowed, streets were closed and parks were flooded.

However, the city may qualify for flood cleanup assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It plans to meet with a representative in the following week.

"FEMA will be doing an assessment, with myself and emergency management, on the infrastructure of the city and some of the storm water run-offs," said McNaul. "Hopefully from that we'll get a determination of what assistance we can get from FEMA."

It was discovered that the city doesn't have flood insurance at the last council meeting, which means all costs of the flooding will come from the city if it doesn't qualify for assistance.

Community members were present during the public comments and correspondence part of the meeting to discuss water and flooding issues.

West Liberty resident Ruth MacGowan, who lives right by the public library, informed the council that water running off of the roof of the library continues to travel through her window and into the basement.

"I know this last rain was extreme, there was a lot of water, but even on Saturday night there was some in my window valve," she explained.

It rained again in West Liberty on July 12, though not nearly as bad as the downpour last month. However, she claims that every time it rains, water comes through her window.

"This has gone on ever since the repair of the library, it was graded a little differently, a little higher than before, and so the water runs to my yard," she added.

Several changes were made to the library this last year while it was being renovated, including its roof. However, there was never a plan to change the grading of the roof or ground below it.

The council decided to send Shive-Hattery to inspect the situation. The engineering firm is currently on retainer since it was in charge of library repairs and construction.

Next, community member Ken Ruegsegger reported a close call behind the Golden Years Housing development on Clark Street.

Water from flooding was within two inches of reaching an electrical transformer behind the apartments currently under construction.

"I realize the job isn't done, but I was in here last fall and mentioned that we have to watch how this water is going down through," he said. "We need to stay on top of this."

A catch basin, which is currently under construction, wasn't enough to stop water reaching over a berm, which is a flat strip of land that is raised up to prevent flood waters from entering an area.

Transformers are electrical devices that transfer energy between circuits from the city to its businesses and homes. Generally a sturdy device, water contact is not good for a transformer.

"The transformers are pretty water tight, they're not going to fault if water gets into them," said Electric Department Superintendent Ed Tvrs. "It's definitely a problem, but it's not a huge issue unless they sit underwater for an extended period of time."

According to McNaul, the city will continue to monitor progress on the catch basin's construction and ensure it does its job properly when completed.

However, it wasn't all gloom for the city. It was reported that West Liberty received several positive comments from the community regarding a citywide pickup of flood debris.

West Liberty picked up flood garbage and buildup last week that had been collected by citizens and placed on several curbsides throughout town.

Also, several flood cleanup kits were handed out to the community from the Red Cross. According to City Clerk Missy Carter, a few are still available at city hall.

On another note, the council split a vote 3-1 in favor of placing a dumpster in the reserved area for parking in front of the home on 214 E. Third Street, right by Jeff's Market.

Lisa Browning made the request, she's currently renovating the house and needs a place to throw garbage; however, the dumpster will be so large it'll reach out and mildly obstruct traffic on Third Street.

Council members Ethan Anderson, Bill Cline and Melody Russell voted in favor while Felicie Simmons voted against. Jose Zacarias was not present for the vote.

The dumpster will be present for approximately two weeks.

In other news…

-The council approved a Class C Liquor License for Wink's Bar and Grill, as well as approved a vendor/voucher claims lists totaling $384,324.10.

-The council held a second reading for the rezoning of lots 1103, 1107 and 1115 from M-2 Heavy Industrial to General Retail. It then waived a third reading of the ordinances, officially putting them into effect.

-The council approved the destruction of several city records from 2008 and older in accordance with the law. It came across the records when cleaning the city hall basement after flooding. This should clear up room for more records according to the city staff, since the older ones are no longer needed.

-The city will apply for a USDA grant in order to help the WL Fire Department fund an addition to its building, specifically $10,000 to help purchase fire equipment. We Lead will help write the grant.
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