MARYVILLE, Mo. — Members of a Facebook group who feel their voices are not represented on City Council filled the upstairs conference room at the Maryville Community Center for Monday’s council meeting.
The meeting was moved to the community center to accommodate the larger crowd, and a heavy police presence enforced mask and room capacity mandates, leaving some attendees to watch from the hall once no more space was left in the conference room without straining social distancing rules.
“We’re just here to show that we’re not happy with the way the city’s being ran — to get our point across,” said Mike Coffelt, one of the group’s more active members. “… We’re just here to show that we’re paying attention.”
None of the members in attendance — about 20 — addressed council members or city staff with any grievances about the way the city is run, but several asked questions mostly centered around the city’s ongoing water issues, existing treatment infrastructure, the state of Mozingo Lake and what plans there are for future solutions to those issues. City Manager Greg McDanel presented a comprehensive overview of the topic, consolidating much of what the council and city staff have covered over the past year.
“I felt like tonight was information overload,” said John McBride, a member of the Facebook group who has said he intends to seek election to the council in April.
For a full chronological overview of the city’s responses to taste and odor issues that have plagued the drinking water more and more frequently over the past three years, see the sidebar, which includes links to stories explaining the algae, nutrients and other compounds that cause the taste and odors, and step-by-step explanations of the city’s plans on how to address the problems in both the short and long terms. In January, McDanel outlined the city’s basic plan of attack as having three components: keeping the water safe to drink, addressing water treatment infrastructure and addressing the health of the source water at Mozingo Lake where the city’s drinking water comes from.
Most recently, the city announced that the lake had high levels of geosmin, a compound that causes an earthy or musty smell and taste. The water remains safe to drink. McDanel said in a press release last week that powder activated carbon used at the water treatment facility had removed about 88-90 percent of the geosmin, but could not remove the remaining amounts — leaving the unpleasant aesthetics intact for some.
“I live 300 yards from the lake, and every day when … my kids get out of the shower in the evening, they smell like our lake water,” said Rich Minton, a local resident who attended the meeting. “It’s unfair to our 12- and 10-year-old daughters to be going through this process.
“Now, it’s not something that’s in anybody’s control — it’s not (McDanel’s), it’s not mine, it’s not (PeopleService’s) water treatment facility’s. But, this has been an ongoing issue for years now, and we’re just catching up to date to get on pace with it. And I realize this isn’t going to be a solved problem tomorrow, this is going to be a solved problem 15 years from now.”
At Monday’s meeting, representatives from PeopleService and HDR Engineering were on hand to answer questions from residents and the council about how the water system works, and what possible solutions could be feasible for Maryville. PeopleService runs the city’s water treatment facility, and HDR Engineering was contracted this summer to draw up comprehensive recommendations and options for overhauling the city’s water infrastructure and source water management plans. A draft of HDR’s recommendations was delivered to council members Monday, but was not presented at the meeting.
However, the HDR representative said that the most effective short-term solution would likely be a granular activated carbon filter that could be attached to the existing infrastructure. He estimated such a project would likely cost in the neighborhood of $3 million.
In the long term, the city will evaluate options that could include a new water treatment facility with new treatment and filtration methods — which McDanel estimated could cost between $10 million to $15 million and take 3 to 5 years to plan and complete.
“I think it’s important to note … that it’s going to take time, not only from an engineering standpoint, but from a financial standpoint and from a planning standpoint, to get to where we need to be in order to have a new system that lasts the next 30 or 40 or 50 years,” said City Council member Tye Parsons. “And that it’s not a problem that we walked into overnight, and it’s not a problem that will be solved overnight.
“… We all as council members have talked about this for a long time. Councils before us have talked about this for a long time, and it’s something that is just going to take some time. No one’s ignoring the issue — we’re all on the same page with getting our water fixed. The good news you all need to hear, and that we’re going to keep saying, is that the water’s safe. So that’s No. 1. Number 2, we’re working on the taste and odor — that’s why we’re here tonight, that’s why we work with PeopleService, that’s why put all of this time and effort into this problem: because we realize it’s a problem. I drink the water too; I don’t like it either. We’re working on it.”
On the source water management side, Assistant City Manager Ryan Heiland — who has headed up that part of the city’s three-pronged plan — said the city continues to work with state and federal agencies to provide grant programs and incentives for private landowners in the Mozingo watershed area to help put in mitigation measures that could keep harmful nutrients — especially nitrogen and phosphorous — out of the lake in the first place.
George Hulet, Missouri Region Manager for PeopleService, said at Monday’s meeting that testing records for the lake water go back to the late 1990s. The lake was formed in 1994. Since testing began, however, he said the nutrient levels have been steadily rising.
About 76 percent of the land in the watershed area is agricultural, Heiland said, and runoff from farms is typically the biggest contributor to nitrogen and phosphorous buildup in lakes like Mozingo. He said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is continuing to assist with gathering more data about the state of the nutrients in the lake, and determining where they’re coming from in an effort to slow their accumulation in what becomes the city’s drinking water.
Heiland did say, though, that analysis of chemicals used at the golf course at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park showed the course is likely not a big contributor.
“The golf course has kept very, very detailed records over the past 20 years,” Heiland said. “If you wanted to know what chemicals were applied on June 6, 2003, we could tell you. I could tell you who applied the chemical, what chemical was applied, how much was applied, what piece of equipment was used to apply it, what the weather was that day — from the temperature to the wind direction and everything like that.
“So, the good thing with that is that then we were able to take those records and give them to a couple of different experts and have them review it. And based on their review … they said that the golf course is not a significant source of nitrogen or phosphorous within the watershed.”
Heiland said that in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars from state and federal grant programs already allocated to watershed management incentives for private landowners, he expects more to become available this spring.
Next, the council will give feedback to HDR on the draft proposals, and then review the final recommendations sometime next year.
“I would love it if you could come in and say, ‘Here’s the one thing that you can do and it’s solved,’” said council member Rachael Martin. “But I feel like, we (would) be passing the problem on to someone else, and I think that an approach that attacks at every angle of what’s going on with our water is the smartest and has the most longevity.
“And, I want to fix this tomorrow, too. Like Tye said, I’m drinking it, I’m showering in it, I stick my babies in it, so I want better quality water as well. So I share in a lot of your concerns.”
Since that Nov. 24 meeting, McDanel said Maryville Public Safety has had 219 direct contacts related to face coverings at 69 different locations, including 31 warnings and one citation.
In response to a question from one of the attendees, McDanel said that officers are not allowed to ask for proof of a medical condition that allows an exemption from wearing a mask.
“There are some that use medical conditions as an excuse and do not have a valid medical condition,” McDanel said. “But what we’re asking is that officers use their best judgment. Maryville Public Safety cannot ask for proof of a medical condition. But certainly a judge can through the normal court process. So, that’s being determined by each individual officer in each situation. … The municipal judge will likely ask for proof of a medical condition, much like if you got a ticket for having windows tinted to much for a medical condition.”
Last week, health care providers, administrators and other employees at Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville sent a letter to the city in support of the increased enforcement measures.
The letter, signed by 43 local health professionals, asked city leaders to help “significantly increase” the number of residents who wear masks, social distance and practice good hand hygiene.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have urged people to protect themselves, their neighbors, and their loved ones amidst the worst global health crisis in generations,” the letter said. “We sincerely appreciate those who have done their part. We are now experiencing rising rates of infections and hospitalizations that are stretching our resources.
“Therefore, we are urging you to take action to protect citizens’ health and follow the simple steps we know will help stop the spread of this virus. We thank those leaders who already have taken action to encourage behaviors that help reduce the spread of disease. Your actions are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
The letter is one of the more explicit calls to action from local health officials, who have frequently stopped short of calling for specific action from local governments and boards. At the Nov. 24 meeting, Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville President Nate Blackford — who is one of the signatories on the letter sent last week — did not recommend any particular action to City Council members before they discussed whether to add any additional mitigation measures as case numbers hit record highs. That same week, the county health department board declined to take up a request from the city to institute a countywide mask mandate.
Over the past three weeks that the newest emergency order has been in effect, the county has remained classified as Category 1: Extreme Risk according to state guidelines that outline steps state health officials recommend local governments take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The city’s emergency order ties local mitigation measures to the state’s recommendations. However, the numbers are trending in the right direction.
In order to move down to Category 2: Critical Risk, the county will need to post two straight weeks with a 7-day positivity rate of under 15 percent and a 7-day case rate per 100,000 population of less than 350. For the first time since the emergency order was signed on Nov. 25, the county’s numbers met that threshold for the past two days, dipping to a 7-day positivity rate of 12.5 percent and a 7-day case rate of 235.4 on Monday.
If that trend can hold for another 12 days, the restrictions recommended by the state for Category 2 would take effect in Maryville, but the only change indicated by the state guidelines would be an increase in maximum social group size from 10 to 25. The mask mandate would remain unaffected, but the council is free to lift the mandate at any time if members so choose.
In the meantime, city officials have scheduled another free mask distribution event from 4-6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 21, at the Maryville Middle School circle drive. At a similar event this summer, council members and city staff handed out more than 25,000 masks. McDanel said the city expects to give away around 30,000 this time.
Council members approved the purchase of a new aerial ladder truck and equipment from Rosenbauer South Dakota for $1,296,157.
In August, the city — through its nonprofit, the Maryville, MO Betterment Corporation — was awarded a $1.3 million grant and loan from the USDA to assist with the purchase of the new truck. The program allows for 55 percent of the cost to come from the grant, and the remaining 45 percent through a loan to the city. The loan portion will be paid back over a 15-year period at a 2.25 percent interest rate.
Maryville Fire Division Captain Phil Rickabaugh said the current ladder truck, a 1981 model, is “getting to the point where it’s dangerous.”
City documents said the air brake system is experiencing issues along with the power steering and hydraulic cylinders, the truck has an outdated manual transmission and because its cab is not enclosed, it no longer meets National Fire Protection Association standards.
“This is a piece of equipment that’s going to really make a difference in this community for 40 years — it’s really exciting,” said City Council member Matt Johnson, a volunteer firefighter. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The truck itself cost just under $1.1 million, but the remaining amount was used to purchase other sorely needed equipment that was within the bounds of the grant and loan program, particularly self-contained breathing apparatus.
“This has been needed for quite a while, and … probably one of the big aspects here is we are able to upgrade our SCBA as well — our breathing apparatus — which is outdated,” Rickabaugh said at Monday’s meeting. “… We’ve been trying to work on that for several years — again, a very costly endeavor to try and do that otherwise.”
Johnson said that because of the price tag, many firefighters at volunteer outfits across the county that are in mutual aid agreements do not have access to updated equipment and use cylinders that are less efficient, weigh more and are generally less safe than ones made from more modern composites. He recommended that the old equipment be given to them at no or minimal cost.
“I know some of the fire crews in our mutual aid response districts still have steel tanks, which is insane,” Johnson said. “So if there’s any way that we could benefit them, that’s still going to strengthen us because we all roll out together for mutual aid. So I’d really like to see us try to make that happen as much as possible.”
Other City Council notes
- Council members approved the purchase of an additional 30,000 pounds of powdered activated carbon for $26,400 from Jacobi Carbons to replenish the water treatment plant’s supply, which is being used at maximum capacity to combat geosmin.
- The council also approved a $13,750 agreement with Estate Management of Missouri to apply algicide treatments to about half of Mozingo Lake next week, and a contract to purchase 2,200 gallons of EarthTec algicide for $33,000, to help prevent algal blooms that have been the cause of previous taste and odor issues.
- Through a grant from the Gladys M. Rickard Charitable Trust, the city will purchase a UTV from Northwest Implement with a slide-in unit and a trailer for $24,103 to be used by firefighters in wet or muddy conditions or in hard-to-reach terrain. The slide-in unit is equipped with a hose reel, water pump and 70 gallons of water that can take 2-3 firefighters immediately to a scene, and includes a compartment that can be used to transport a patient to ambulance via unpaved or inaccessible paths.
- City Council members approved a $2.62 million agreement with Evergy Missouri West and SK Design Group that will move overhead power lines underground as part of the South Main Corridor Improvement Project, which is slated to begin work next year. A little over $1.66 million of the agreement could not be included through the federal BUILD grant that will pay for most of the project, increasing the city’s matching portion to 20 percent from 16 percent.
- Filing for candidates seeking to be on the ballot for the April election begins Tuesday. Two City Council seats — currently held by Jason McDowell and Matt Johnson — are up for election.
- After the city of Maryville took over maintenance for Third Street several years ago, the intersection with North Depot Street was the only one on Depot to not have an eastbound stop sign. A flashing “stop ahead” sign and new stop sign have been added to the intersection, and once drivers become adjusted to the change, the southbound stop sign along North Depot will be removed.
- Public Works crews repaired three sections of roadway on South Dunn. Workers found that the roadway was undermined by stormwater and identified a missing section of curb as the culprit. The curb was also replaced.
- Street Maintenance Division workers also repaired a section of Third Street after discovering a stormwater tube rusted out, creating a hole between the tube and pavement. The street was closed for four days while crews excavated the tube and replaced 40 linear feet of tube connected to stormwater inlet boxes.
- In June, the council approved a contract for the East Sanitary Sewer Improvement Project, which will replace a deteriorated and undersized 21-inch sanitary sewer main extending to the east lift station with a new 36-inch main. The contractor, Blue Nile Contractors, has made the connection to the east lift station and is working on installing the main line and manholes, but several crew members are in quarantine and should return this week. Approximately six weeks of construction remains on the project.
- The Board of Code Appeals is scheduled to meet on Dec. 17 to hear relevant testimony regarding the condition of structures located at 401 S. Buchanan St., 609 E. Fourth St. and 912 E. Fifth St to determine whether they are “dangerous buildings” that will require repair or demolition. Demolition partnerships have also been secured for 304 S. Walnut St., a portion of 105 S. Main St. and a structure on the corner of 1308 S. Main St.
- McDanel thanked Mozingo Lake Recreation Park Director Ron Darnell for 26 years of service. Darnell is set to retire at the end of the year. He has served in various roles at the park since its opening in 1994. “Throughout his career, Ron helped grow Mozingo Lake Recreation Park into a premier local park and regional destination,” McDanel said. “Just as important, he has positively influenced all who have had the pleasure to work with him.”
- The City Council meeting scheduled for Dec. 28 has been canceled because of the holidays. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Maryville Community Center.