Levee repairs set to start in county

Work to upgrade existing levee systems along the Mississippi River in the metro east is set to begin next month right here in Monroe County.

Monroe County Commissioner Delbert Wittenauer gave a status report on the levee project during Monday’s county board meeting.

Work will start in November on Fish Lake Drainage and Levee District pump stations and seepage control requirements in Columbia, Wittenauer said.

“Bids for three more sections of work on the Fish Lake Levee will be let in December,” he added.

The levee upgrades are being funded by a quarter-cent sales tax being collected in Monroe, St. Clair and Madison counties to the tune of about $11 million per year. The goal is to complete improvements to 74 miles of levees stretching from Columbia north to Alton by the end of 2015, thereby avoiding a threat from FEMA to de-accredit them.

And while work is going ahead in Monroe County, Wittenauer expressed concern over funding problems the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is having at the Mel Price Locks and Dam Levee south of Alton.

“The whole project has to work as a system,” he noted. “And if the segment at the upstream end is not certified, this may cause difficulties in meeting FEMA’s 2015 target date for system certification and preferred flood insurance rates.”

The Corps of Engineers is responsible for upgrading the Mel Price Locks and Dam, but officials are citing budget constraints and have failed to set a project deadline at this point.

In other news from Monday’s meeting, Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein reminded everyone that property taxes are due in his office by the close of day, Friday, Oct. 25.

“Approximately $14 million, or 25 percent of property taxes due, are still outstanding this morning,” Koenigstein said.

Koenigstein also said sales tax receipts from the state are running about two percent ahead of last year, and should reach the $800,000 mark for 2013.

“That indicates business is starting to pick up around Monroe County,” he said.

In addition, the state is doing better at staying current with the county’s share of income taxes and salary reimbursements, the treasurer added.

County Highway Engineer Aaron Metzger reported on highway work, saying the bridge project on Gall Road is now complete and final bills are being paid.

He also said the portion of Bluff Road from Chalfin Bridge to Ivy Road in Fults has reopened to traffic. Bluff Road had been closed in that area for a project that raised the roadway 2.5 feet and straightened it to help with flooding issues.

Adding to good news on county roads, Metzger noted the Kaskaskia Road safety project, which was funded 90-10 by federal safety improvement funds, was completed Friday.

Oak Hill Care Center Director Kim Keckritz said the facility now has computerized medical records to comply with federal law, and is continuing to work on information security under the newly implemented system. Keckritz said this is a large challenge for medical service providers everywhere, and the work has their full attention.

In other action, the commissioners OK’d the appointment of Josh Bayer of the Columbia Police Department to fill the term of Shirley Bergman, who resigned from the County 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Board, which expires Dec. 1, and another reappointing Dylane Doerr of Columbia as a Miles Cemetery trustee until Oct. 31, 2016.

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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