Chamois reports 52 percent water loss; aldermen face other challenges as two are resigning next month

By Theresa Brandt, Staff Writer
Posted 9/27/23

CHAMOIS — Chamois reported a 52% water loss for the month of August, and while most of the board attributed this to the water project, there have also been several reported water leaks.

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Chamois reports 52 percent water loss; aldermen face other challenges as two are resigning next month


CHAMOIS — Chamois reported a 52% water loss for the month of August, and while most of the board attributed this to the water project, there have also been several reported water leaks.

“We do have water leaks that we are working on,” City Clerk Megan Birmingham said. “Missouri Rural Water is coming down to help us locate them, and we’ve had a lot of leaks in people’s houses that they have to fix.”

Alderman Marie Slusser asked if Utilities Supervisor Justin Bathke had ordered the water meters that aldermen had approved.

“He’s working on ordering those,” Birmingham said.

Slusser said that she had been at a resident’s house that was using a lot of water. The customer cannot find a leak, but the water meter is very old.

Birmingham replied that Bathke would like to make his next project to move the water meters to the curb and replace the old units with new ones.

“Can we bring the meters outside so we are not going into peoples’ houses and basements?” Slusser asked.

Mengwasser said that was a complicated issue because she finds the language of the city’s water ordinance confusing and contradictory. She is unsure of the city’s responsibility regarding the water lines and meters.

“It says that we are responsible to the meter,” Aldermen Sara Mengwasser said. “It’s very confusing.”

Resident Guy Slusser said that he remembered after buying his house that he had been responsible for installing a new water line on his property, even though the meter was in his home. Alderman Wright said that was his experience as well.

Unterrified Democrat Reporter Theresa Brandt asked why there wasn’t a clear understanding of the city’s responsibility and what homeowners were obliged to do.

“I’ve been reading through it (the water ordinance), and it is contradictory to me,” Mengwasser said. “I sat there for hours trying to decipher it. I think it needs to be looked at.”

Birmingham presented a copy of Ordinance #539 available for review by aldermen. Under Section I, “Customer’s Duty Regarding Service Lines, the ordinance reads: “Any repairs or maintenance necessary to the service pipe or any pipe or fixture in or upon the water user’s premises shall be performed by the water user at his sole expense and risk.”

The ordinance also says that service pipes are supposed to be kept in good order, and failure to do so could result in the water being disconnected.

However, the ordinance stipulates that the city would install the water meters initially.

“We always went to the shut-off valve and not to the meter,” Alderman Jim Wright said. “We can rewrite the ordinance if it doesn’t say that clearly.”

Aldermen will contact the city’s attorney to look at the ordinance and rewrite it as necessary.

Brandt asked when David Bandre of Bandre, Hunt, and Snider became the city’s attorney and why it wasn’t brought up or voted on at a meeting.

Wright answered that the city’s regular attorney, Amanda Grellner, was dealing with health issues in her family and reducing her caseload.

“I’ve talked to the guy once or twice and he seemed knowledgeable,” Slusser said. “I thought he was just helping Amanda out. I didn’t know we had to pay him.”

“I’ve never seen a lawyer that didn’t want to get paid,” Wright said. “Do we have any idea when Amanda will be back? We need to call her and find out when she is coming back.”

“She cannot represent us right now while she is prosecuting a case that involves someone on the board,” Birmingham said. “That’s already been said.”

Slusser made a statement that she wants Mayor Michael  Edwards’ private life to remain private.

“Your personal life should not be brought up at any meetings,” Slusser said. “And no one from our little ‘Knights of the Round Table’ should be talking about or putting their nose into it,” Slusser said. “I think everyone is allowed to have a personal life.”

Aldermen approved Bandre as the city attorney until Grellner can fill the position again.

Birmingham had no idea how much Bandre or Grellner charged per hour.

In the meantime, Slusser noted that she is getting a lot of phone calls from residents about water and sewer problems.

“I have been getting phone calls from citizens because they can’t get ahold of anyone else,” Slusser said. “There are a lot of leaks popping up.”

Brandt asked why Slusser was getting all these phone calls about the water and sewer problems around town since she is not the mayor or utilities supervisor.

“I’m not either of those things,” Slusser said. “I can speak with them. I can empathize with them. I can get ahold of the mayor. I can get ahold of Justin. But that’s all I can do.”

Birmingham insisted that the numbers for the city and Bathke are posted.

“I have texts from a couple of citizens that say they can’t get ahold of the mayor,” Slusser said. “That the mayor is inaccessible. They can’t get ahold of Justin. He’s not answering or returning their calls. So, the only thing I can do is talk to them. I can go to their house and let them know that I understand they have a valid issue. I can talk to the mayor, and I can talk to Justin; that’s all I can do.”

Bathke was absent from the meeting, but Brandt asked if he had passed either his water or wastewater license tests.

Birmingham responded that he was retaking the test.

Bathke has failed the water test twice and the wastewater test once.

“He doesn’t have to go back to class,” Birmingham said. “He is studying on his own, along with doing all the city stuff. He’s trying very hard to get everything squared away.”

Brandt pointed out that a condition of his employment was that Bathke would obtain his license and certification by June 30, 2023. Slusser confirmed this later in a text from former Mayor Elise Brochu to Brandt after the closed session in November 2022.

In other business, Alderman Lance Gerloff presented a resignation letter for his position as of Oct. 5. He will be moving out of town and no longer eligible to be an alderman. Wright will be resigning at the October meeting due to health reasons.

“I wanted to try to stay, but it just isn’t possible,” Wright said.

Both have potential residents that may be willing to fill their positions.

• Aldermen approved $284,050 for the water project’s first payment at their meeting last Wednesday night. Birmingham explained the request for reimbursment would be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the money from the grant would then be sent to the city so that they could pay Midstate Pipeline Maintenance, the contractor awarded the water project.

“This is the money that needs to be used by December of 2023,” Birmingham explained. “We’ve got to use this, or we will lose it.”

Archer-Elgin Engineering, Surveying, and Architecture oversees the project and updated the city by email that the well-drillers have already installed 42 feet of surface casing for the new well as directed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). According to Archer-Elgin, B&H Well Drilling terminated the nine-inch-diameter pilot hole at a final depth of 650 feet, as previously approved by the city.

B&H Well Drilling will begin reaming the pilot hole to the well’s final diameter of 12 inches and is nearing the final 650-foot depth of the well. Excess water is being directed from the well through a trench near Market Street. They plan to set and grout the final wall casing and do a final drawdown test for the well this week.

Aldermen approved purchasing gravel to use on residents’ driveways and to have on hand when the city is allowed to refill the trench. The board also approved renting a dump trailer to move dirt from the park to refill the trench on South Market Street.

“I’ve heard a lot about that trench,” Slusser said. “A lot of people are unhappy. There wasn’t anything sent to anyone on that street that we were digging that up. There were no letters or anything sent out; that’s why people are upset.”

Slusser asked Mengwasser if she had any idea how long the trenches would still be needed and when they could be filled in.

Edwards thought it would be another week or two.

“We were told that the engineer had to approve us filling the trench back up with dirt,” Birmingham said. “That’s what we were waiting on, and we haven’t heard back from them.”

“I don’t think it would cost over $500 to $600 worth of gravel to repair the driveways we tore up for this project,” Slusser said.

“And for future projects like that, could we get some culvert pipe to lay in people’s driveways to cover over, and then we could remove them once the project is done?” Gerloff asked.

“That’s what I was under the impression we were doing,” Wright said, with which Mengwasser agreed.

“I think someone should go talk to those people because at least one of them is talking about going to talk to a lawyer if it doesn’t get fixed,” Gerloff warned.

Slusser suggested the city could install culvert pipes while the water project is ongoing.

“I would just hate for someone to fall in that trench, especially since everyone on that side of the street is older,” Gerloff said.

Mengwasser will reach out to Archer-Elgin to see a timeline for when the trench can be filled in.

Guy Slusser volunteered to use his Bobcat to load the dirt into the rented dump trailer at the City Park to make the project go faster. Birmingham was unsure how much it had cost to rent the dump trailer the last time they had rented it.

Gerloff suggested that while the city had the dump trailer rented, they should use it to help get some potholes on the city streets filled and patched.

Birmingham said that Bathke has started filling potholes around the city.

Gerloff said that he hoped Bathke would have time to clean out ditches and culverts as less time is needed to cut grass this fall.

• Aldermen tabled approving the renewal of the city’s insurance with Missouri Public Entity Risk Management (MOPERM). The insurance renewal was quoted at $13,448 with an increase of $2,728 for law enforcement liability.

Slusser questioned why the dump truck was still being insured.

“Jim, didn’t you say that the dump truck was a loss and we couldn’t use it?” Slusser asked. “Didn’t you say it would cost too much to fix it?”

“That’s what I said,” Wright replied.

“Then why do we need to keep insurance on it?” Slusser asked.

“Is there insurance on that thing for just sitting down there?” Edwards asked. “That thing hasn’t moved in years.”

Aldermen asked Birmingham to have the insurance refigured without the dump truck and present the premium for approval at next month’s meeting.

They also asked Birmingham to put an ad in the paper for closed bids for the city’s dump truck so that they could sell it since the city is not using it.

“Our total amount should go down some,” Slusser said.

Wright replied that it would only go down by a little bit.

“Every penny counts,” Slusser said.

“Especially in this town,” Wright agreed.

• Aldermen approved renewing the city’s basic membership with Meramec Regional Planning Commission for $300.52, which comes with 15 service hours.

• The city will send out a letter with the next set of water bills to all city residents to remind them to cut their grass and weeds and keep their trees and shrubs trimmed.

“I would just like to send a reminder to everyone in town because I’ve heard about the trash guy having trouble because of tree limbs,” Slusser said. “There are neighbors complaining about other neighbor’s trees. It wouldn’t hurt if we sent one to everyone in town as a friendly reminder.”

City residents can get rid of brush and limbs at the city park, past the RV parking.

Slusser recommended that the city get a copy of the ordinance that deals with cutting grass and weeds and trimming trees and brush to Police Chief Riley Lewis so that he could start writing citations if residents choose to ignore the letter.

“The city needs to cut its own lots,” Wright said.

“What lot?” Birmingham said. “If we don’t know it’s our property, we can’t cut it.”

Wright explained two city lots had been donated to the city, and grass had not been cut on either.

Aldermen agreed that putting the two lots up for sale may be a good idea so the city does not have to maintain them. They will discuss this at the next meeting.

• Chief Lewis asked if the city had an ordinance about four-wheelers and side-by-side vehicles operating on city streets. He added that he has encountered young kids driving through the city in a reckless manner, and suggested that the city adopt an ordinance dealing with these types of vehicles.

He is going to bring a copy of the ordinance that Gasconade adopted for the aldermen to review. Mengwasser will also look into the ATV and UTV ordinance approved by the city of Linn.

“We can look at these ordinances, but I see no issue with stopping a 13-year-old from flying down the street,” Slusser said.

Lewis noted that so far, he has just been issuing warnings, but warned he will start writing tickets in the next several weeks.

Slusser asked if he would make a few surprise visits around the school at the end of the day to slow down student drivers.

• Birmingham announced that she is tired of people calling her names and leaving hateful messages.

“I would just like people to understand that I do have a full-time job at the school,” Birmingham said. “I would like to not get nasty phone calls and not-so-nice threats. I do take this job seriously, but I can’t be here all the time.”

Birmingham said that she puts in well over 20 hours per week for the city and would like people to respect that and not call her at school or on her personal phone.

• Slusser asked for support for a spaghetti dinner benefit for Jay Stone and Victoria Hickman set for Oct. 1 at Chamois City Park from 3-7 p.m. Victoria passed away on Sept. 12, shortly after giving birth to a daughter. The benefit will help with funeral expenses and other financial needs of the family. Donations of diapers, wipes, clothes, and formula would be appreciated, as well as cash donations.

• Aldermen approved outstanding bills for $8,601.10.

• The city had the following account balances: cemetery ($10,437.77), general ($37,378.95), water ($200,867.49), sewer ($88,227.15), city Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) ($1,250), American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) ($77,213.68), sewer bond ($26,733.63), city cemetery ($20,697.55), meter deposits ($23,255.79), and water repair ($29,014.42).

• The next meeting is Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.