By Brandie Gay
Special to the
Most of municipality projects are a long, drawn-out processes that have to be completed in steps.
The City of Vandalia is on the right track to make the community a better place to work and raise a family. Vandalia hasn’t had a newly built house in more than 10 years. Currently, there have been two new houses completed, and it’s estimated three more will be built in the coming year.
The City of Vandalia’s Board of Aldermen have approved projects, such as updating the substation to appointing new department heads. Here are a few completed projects for the year, 2023.
For several years, the City of Vandalia has been working on reducing the amount of I&I (Inflow and Infiltration) that is getting into its sewer system. The reduction of I&I is always a priority in every wastewater operating permit that the city gets from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Vandalia also has to report to MDNR any steps taken in reducing the amount of I&I in the city’s wastewater system.
Steps the city has taken in reducing the amount of I&I getting into the system
At the January council meeting, the city contracted with Visu-Sewer to clean and CCTV inspect all sewer lines that are within the city limits of Vandalia. The cost of the project is $536,908.15. The project was paid for out of two funds $502,639 out of the Sewer Surcharge Fund, and the remainder to Capital Improvements Fund Council Approved Projects.
The Board of Aldermen appointed Brandon Straube to be Fire Chief for the City of Vandalia. Brandon was appointed Interim Fire Chief at the Dec. 13, 2022, council meeting and has been serving in that capacity since that time.
City staff has been working with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments on this grant that started in 2021. The city identified 30 houses and one business to be put on a demolition list. In June of 2022, the city was awarded $190,815 for this project. There have been many roadblocks associated with this grant, but Vandalia is continuing to move it forward. Asbestos inspections will be completed in the coming months, and with weather permitting, demolition of houses should begin.
Along with the demolition project, the city has been working on with Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments since 2021 to change out the water meters. The city was awarded $463,853 in May of 2022, to replace all our water meters to an Automatic Read Water Meter System. The grant includes the purchase of meters and installation. This project has already been out for bid and the city is currently working with Core & Main ordering meters, the reading software and installation in the next few months.
Staff has met with the city’s engineering firm, Poepping, Stone, & Bach, to discuss a waterline replacement project. The approved project would replace approximately seven blocks of waterlines on South Oak Street and approximately 13 blocks on East Washington Street.
When televising the sewer line on Main Street, Visu-Sewer discovered a section of the 6-inch clay sewer pipe that runs under the railroad tracks had broken and shifted. This condition could cause the ground under the tracks to wash out.
There is no way of knowing how long this section of pipe has been broken, but now that it has been discovered, the city is recommending that it gets replaced as soon as possible.
The city administrator had been in contact with the engineering firm PSBA, that same day they were in town discussing the project with staff.
Staff visited the area and started working on a plan for the replacement of the sewer line. This is a project that city staff would not do; it would need to be contracted out. City Administrator Darren Berry said he is recommending that funding for this project come from ARPA funds. The approved bid for this project is $700,000. When work does begin, the city expects that a large section of Main Street will need to be closed for many weeks, so traffic will be detoured around East Park to Jefferson Street to Hwy. 54.
Missouri State Statue 50.332 allows counties to perform certain duties for municipalities as long as a contract exists between the city and county. This contract for collections has been in place for several years. The agreement (contract) for collections will renew on April 1 of each year unless either party serves a written notice of termination no less than 120 days before the renewal date. This agreement allows the city to retain 97% and the county to retain 3% of all taxes collected.
The supervised work release program was established years ago and is used year-round by the city. The agreement provides up to four offenders with one substitute if needed. The city compensates each offender $7.50 per eight-hour shift.
For several years, the city’s crews have been divided up into three departments—Streets, Utilities, and Water/Wastewater Treatment. However, this has not always been the case. When the city had a power plant, those employees were part of the Electric Department and all of the Water/Wastewater duties were part of the Water/Sewer Department.
At some point, the Electric Department and the distribution side of the Water/Sewer Department was combined. This changed the name of that department from Electric to Utility Department and the Water/Sewer Department to Water/Wastewater Treatment.
Berry said, “This never made sense to me because I always felt that the water/sewer duties should be in one department and electric in another.”
Moving forward, Berry is making some changes to the departments. The Utility Department currently has seven employees. Aaron Rentfro is the department head, Jeff Gay and Heath Williams are lineman, Tom Wright is the water/sewer equipment operator, Buck Zumwalt is the maintenance worker II, Darin Clinton is the meter reader and Daniel Null is the serviceman.
The Water/Sewer Plant only has two employees—Mike Smith and Justin Franke. Dave Sanders was the department head, but he has since left.
According to DNR regulations, the Water Plant is a B Certified Plant, and the Lagoons are a C Certified Lagoon System. This requires a chief operator with both those certifications.
Berry is currently the only person who has a B Water Treatment Certification so he serves as the chief operator and has for many years. So, with the restructuring of the Water/Sewer Department, Berry will be moving Tom Wright, Buck Zumwalt, and Darin Clinton from the Utility Department to the Water/Sewer Department.
The little house that the city purchased from Donna Hoover, that is connected to the Water Plant property, has been converted to a new break room/office for the Water/Sewer Department.
Berry has promoted Mike Smith to chief operator. He would need to pass the B Certification test before he can be officially named chief, and Justin Franke is going to be the backup chief. The department has already started cross training Buck Zumwalt as a backup operator at the Water Plant.
Berry has created a new position for a department head for the Water/Sewer Department and advertised this position within the organization. Ethan Clark applied for the position and after interviewing him for the position; Berry promoted him to be the new department head for the Water/Sewer Department.
Administration felt that he is a good fit since he came from Alliance Water and has experience with water/sewer distribution and some treatment. The Utility Department will now be called the Electric Department and it will consist of Aaron Rentfro as department head, Jeff Gay and Heath Williams as lineman and Daniel Null as the serviceman, who will also serve as ground man for the lineman when needed. Now that Ethan Clark has accepted the position as department head, the city will be advertising for his replacement in the Street Department.
In the past, accessory buildings were limited in size to a maximum of 720-square feet and must be within 300 feet of the owner’s primary residential structure. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved to increase the allowable square footage from 720 to 1,600-square feet. Measurement shall be taken from the existing structure’s closest point to the proposed structure’s closest point inclusive of streets, alleyways, easements and the like.
Over the past few years, staff has been looking into changing the city’s website. After discovering Apptegy, the city’s staff found it to be easier to use than the current website.
It includes an additional bit of technology that is not available with CivicPlus, and that is a mobile app. This mobile app can be downloaded to smart phones so citizens will be able to get real time alerts and notifications from the city. Examples of the types of alerts citizens could receive through the app are water main breaks, boil advisories, street closings, and even lost utility bills.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended and the Board of Aldermen approved the subdivision plats of land that was used for the development of the new Dollar General Market.
Staff has been working with Audrain Development Disability Services for an all-inclusive playground set to be installed at Tri-County Park. ADDS awarded the city $150,000 for this project. The city’s match for this playground set is $50,000, which was approved in this year’s budget. The new playground has been delivered and will be installed in the spring of 2024.
On April 6, 2020, the city’s substation caught on fire and half of it was destroyed. On Dec. 8, 2020, the City Council approved to convey ownership of a new substation and also transfer ownership of the 69KV line, to Central Electric.
Before the substation fire in 2020, staff had started working on some preliminary plans to upgrade the city’s electrical system. The remaining circuits need to be converted from 2400 Delta to 4160Y.
Because of the substation fire, staff said it felt that it would be best to put this project on hold until after the new substation was completed. There is still one substation circuit that needs to be upgraded before the substation is completed. Before our new substation can be energized, circuit 12 needs to be completely converted from 2400 delta to 4160 volts.
Several years ago, part of this circuit was converted to 4160 volts along with other areas of our electric grid. The long-range goal of the city is to convert all circuits to 4160 volts. Money has been set aside for many years for this project in the Capital Improvements Fund, Electric 102 Conversion.
The city is recommending using some of those funds to pay for this project. The current balance of the Electric 102 Conversion fund is $860,060.65. The Board of Aldermen approved Sellenriek Energy LLC to complete the conversion of circuit 12 from 2400 delta to 4160 volts at a cost of $87,264.06.