County pledges funding for levee repairs

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Leaders of the Monroe County levee districts met with Monroe County commissioners Monday to request financial support for necessary levee repairs. Pictured in front, from left, are commissioners George Green, Vicki Koerber and Dennis Knobloch; back row: Monroe County Public Safety Director Kevin Scheibe, Brian Mehrtens of the Columbia Levee District, Bruce Brinkman (representing all levee districts), Mark Laurent of the Fort Chartres and Ivy Landing Levee District, Glenn Stumpf of the Columbia Levee District, Lynden Prange of the Stringtown Levee District and Brian Edler of the Harrisonville Levee District.  

Some federal funds allocated to Monroe County as a result of the COVID pandemic may be used to fund local levee repairs.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners on Monday met with leaders of the five levee districts that protect property in the Bottoms, including homes and businesses, from flooding by the Mississippi River.  

The levee district leaders sought financial support to carry out needed work as a first step to guarantee federal certification of the levees in Monroe County, which in turn would ensure people living and working in the bottoms will be able to get favorably priced flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

These representatives told commissioners they were able to carry out routine work on the levees to keep them in operation, but that large numbers of what are called relief wells needed to be tested and if necessary, restored. 

Hundreds of relief wells are found throughout the bottoms. They allow water that has seeped under the levees during flood events to be brought to the surface without creating the threats of sand boils.  Water can then be safely pumped over the levees back into the river. In addition, several gravity drains that send water back to the river in non-flood times need to be repaired and updated.

Representatives of each of the levee districts presented detailed projections of the needed work, which contractors have indicated will cost approximately $1 million.  After seeking process details, the commissioners proposed to support 80 percent of the estimated costs, which will come to $802,884. 

This money will be disbursed as each element of work is completed and will be drawn from $6 million in federal relief funding that came to Monroe County under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. The $1.9 trillion package is intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts.

It was noted Monday that an alternative to reasonably priced flood insurance is for property owners to accept federal buyouts of homes and other property.  But that property could no longer be lived in or used and would no longer generate local property taxes.  

While those who live and have businesses on higher ground may question why money should be given to specifically support owners in the bottoms, it was pointed out that in heavy rain periods, substantial flooding comes downhill to the bottoms from higher interior areas.

The commissioners will take up support for next steps for certification to secure favorable flood insurance premiums after this first phase is completed.

In other news from the meeting, county resident Adam Linnemann came to the board to request for a new county ordinance that would allow legal use of ATVs and UTVs on rural roads. He supplied current ordinances that permit such vehicles to be operated on roads in Valmeyer, Millstadt and Red Bud, as well as in Johnson, Lee and Pulaski counties.

He also provided an information sheet on use of these vehicles from the Illinois Farm Bureau.  

Linnemann noted that most governments allowing such use require annual permits at costs of $15 to $50, and they generate increased business from users. He acknowledged that all ATVs and UTVs operating on public roads should require working head and taillights and proof of insurance.  

The commissioners took this request under advisement, saying they would consult others including Sheriff Neal Rohlfing, and if they decide to approve such operation, get back to Linnemann to develop the necessary county ordinance.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein updated the board on the county’s financial situation at the end of the third quarter of the fiscal year. He noted that property tax payments – due Sept. 24 and Nov. 5 – are coming in. He said that the budget for 2021 is on track to be met with an added revenue for the year of approximately $500,000.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger informed commissioners of names of fuel suppliers that have qualified to sell the county gasoline and diesel fuel in the coming year.  Four area companies: Energy Petroleum Company; Gateway, FS, Inc; Huels Oil Company and R&M Oil & Supply submitted required bid registration forms.  Fuels will be bought from them as needed throughout the coming year.

Several resolutions of appointment and reappointment were also approved unanimously.

Reappointments include Brian Mehrtens of Columbia to the Columbia Drainage and Levee District; James Seboldt of Fults to the Fort de Chartres & Ivy Drainage and Levee District; Craig Ramsey of Columbia to the Fish Lake Drainage and Levee District and Brian Edler of Valmeyer to the Harrisonville Drainage and Levee District.  

Glenn Stumpf of Columbia was appointed to the Columbia Drainage and Levee District to replace Matthew Mueller, who has resigned. Paul Minton of Fults is replacing Eugene Sense, who has resigned from the Stringtown Drainage and Levee District.

The next regular meeting of the county board is Monday, Oct. 4 at 8:15 a.m.  

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