Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch told city council members a crew from Utility Services was in town for around six weeks working on city water towers. The team has been most visible at the standpipe next to the IOOF Cemetery. The exterior has been standblasted and will be repainted white, like the ones in the Industrial Park. The old paint lasted for 22 years, Rauch said.
The inside of the standpipe has been drained and is also being sandblasted. The number 12 well, known for its periodic muddiness, fills the standpipe, and has left about four feet of fine dirt at the bottom which has not been cleaned out in 22 years, Rauch said All that will be cleaned out now, before the crew heads to the Industrial Park for more work on those towers.
Rauch reported Electric Department crews had finished installing lights on the new bridge over the railroad crossing on Eisenhower. On the northeast end of town, city crews have strung new primary line and are preparing for a massive meter swap-out at the Heim trailer park, now that the buy-out of service to the park from Empire District Electric is nearly complete. Rauch also plans to replace two older transformers.
Why electric prices have dropped
Electric bills were lower in February after the fuel adjustment surcharge from Empire District Electric dropped from $350,575.08 in January to $221,137.92 in February. The city has no control over the surcharge. The cost is passed directly along to Monett customers.
The fuel adjustment surcharge comes out of extra charges Empire faces to get its energy. Rauch said part of the surcharge came from Empire hedging its costs on natural gas prices early to avoid subsequent increases. This year prices dropped, however, leaving Empire caught paying a higher rate.
Empire has also been paying a 14 percent increase in costs to transport coal to its power plants from Wyoming, and has had one of its coal fired plants in the Kansas City area out of service.
"The days of three cents a kilowatt hour are long gone," Rauch said. The city's wholesale contract will expire on April 28, after which the city will explore future options. Empire will extend its current arrangement for a limited period.
Rauch further reported crews have also been laying new fiber optics lines in the Industrial park, Rauch said.
Water Department crews have new tools for troubleshooting problems. Rauch reported 10 flow meters have been purchased for $38,000 from Haynes Equipment to place in manholes. The meters will measure storm water infiltration into the sanitary sewer system, identifying points where repairs are needed.
Water Department crews maintain the city sewer system, and have been using a new underwater camera to look at the collection mains. Rauch said a couple deep spots in alleys have been found where pouring insulation in the lines will not correct the problem. Crews will dig up the spots and correct blockage. Rauch was pleased that the camera was paying for itself.
Possible building boom
Building Inspector George Rausch reported significant construction activity in town. Work began on around five new houses in town during January and February, the most new residential construction seen in the past six months.
In addition, Rauch said he has been working with 10 builders and architects on new projects, as well as six property owners and builders on construction infills of lots.
"We will have a real building boom if all these projects come though, and I think they will," Rausch said.
Rausch asked the council to correct what he thought was a typographical error in an ordinance about parking for downtown residents. Rausch said he and Assistant Building Inspector Wade Ennes read the same ordinance two different ways.
By changing one word, the ordinance would clearly state landlords have to provide one one-street paved parking space for every apartment unit. The regulation would apply to future houaing, as older units would be grandfathered under the old rules.
Council members agreed and passed the change. Asked by Mayor Jim Orr about the number of downtown residents, Street Superintendent Russ Balmas said the street sweeper runs early in the morning and has to work around four or five vehicles parked on the street.
Balmas reported his crews were presently laying the last sections of the Greenways Trail sidewalk network between the golf course and Eisenhower, along the south side of Highway 60. Otherwise, workers were busy with "brush, trash, and the usual suspects," Balmas said.
The skate park at South Park, Balmas added, was "up and running." Vandalism at the site had dropped significantly, he added.
Mayor Orr recalled that the frontage road by McDonald's and Braum's on the south side of Highway 60 was supposed to be closed at Plaza Drive as part of the highway widening project. He asked engineer Kevin Sprenkle about it, who said several pieces of the project remain unfinished. A couple drop inlet boxes to catch storm water by Braum's also need to be installed in that location.
Reporting on the Eisenhower bridge project, Sprenkle said the contractor still have dirt work to complete along the shoulders. Guardrails should be installed this week, and the road should be striped the following week. The official opening will be on April 10.
Sprenkle urged motorists to pay attention to the speed limit on the new bridge. Several shared his concern that motorists would be tempted to drive much faster than the 25 mile-per-hour posted limit now that the road had been significantly improved.
Fire Chief Tom Jones reported his crews had been very busy in recent weeks responded to grass fires inside and outside of the city.
John Strong, president of the Crime Stoppers board, reported the Crime Stoppers organization has purchased use of two outdoor advertising billboards. The local group had also decided to join the national Crime Stoppers organization, which offers a number of benefits.
Council members paid bills for the month of $1,661,202.39. The biggest payment was $994,241.52 to Empire District Electric for wholesale electricity.
Other major bills for the month included $190,000 to Missouri Rural Services for workers' compensation insurance for the coming year and $41,000 to One Beacon as a quarterly payment on liability insurance.