The Cherokee City Council Tuesday night approved a resolution to establish process and timeline for disconnection of storm water and ground water from sanitary sewer lines in the Ament Addition in northeast Cherokee.
Approximately 20 Ament property owners - largely the western half of the addition - who have drain tile systems or sump pumps connected to the City's sanitary sewer system now have options and a deadline to disconnect from the system. About 10 other affected Ament homeowners have already made the disconnections.
As explained by City Administrator Don Eikmeier and the Council, the cross connection prohibition in the City Code is not geared solely at the Ament Addition, and that other homes in Cherokee with similar connections will also be required to disconnect in the future.
"There's a concentration problem in the Ament Addition and that's why it's the first to be addressed by the City," explained Eikmeier.
Basically, when the homes were built in the Ament Addition back in the 1960s-70s, the City at the time either allowed the connections, or were unaware of them through a faulty inspection process, and the contractor allegedly knowingly and wrongly made the connections in violation of the City Code. The problem has been exacerbated through the years by sellers of property and/or realtors either unaware of the connections, or failing to disclose that information at point of sale.
According to City Engineer John Devitt, the annual cost of processing the extra water that comes through the treatment plant from storm or ground water exceeds $20,000 for electrical costs alone, not including maintenance and repair costs of equipment and pumps.
Devitt said a City of 5,000 people should average approximately 2.5 million gallons of wastewater entering the treatment plant per day. However, during rain events or sustained wet periods, the Cherokee treatment plant has received up to 6 million gallons.
To keep wastewater rates from increasing even further, the City must address the issue. Also, federal and state mandates prohibit storm water and groundwater from entering a City's wastewater system.
Citizens with sump pumps or drainage tile should contact their plumber for assistance in the matter, or contact City Hall, and qualified personnel will inspect the home for cross connections.
Resdents with cross connections now have three options as detailed in the new resolution - they can voluntarily complete the disconnection prior to July 1, 2010; they can request the City include their property in an assessment district whereby the costs of the disconnections can be spread out over a 10-year period; or they can take no action which will automatically add the property to the assessment district.
The City also has inquired through the Siouxland Interstate Metroplitan Planning Council (SIMPCO) regarding the possibility for grants from Stimulus Funds, CDBG dollars, or Rural Development for homeowner assistance in making the repairs. Although it appears no funds exist for such repairs, the City will continue exploring the matter.
Tuesday's meeting was attended by about 20 disgruntled Ament homeowners, who feel they have been victimized by the original contractor, the sitting Council and City Hall at the time, or past homeowners and/or realtors who didn't provide full disclosure when they purchased their properties.
Citizens disconnecting from the sanitary sewer system may connect their sump pump or drain tile to the city storm sewer, if storm sewer mains abut their property. If storm sewer collection mains are not present, the homeowner may run a line to a garden, an adjacent ditch line, or to their lawn. If they choose to do the latter, they should contact a plumber or drain layer to insure they are not allowing the water to seep back towards the foundation of their home.
In other business, the Council approved a military monument to be carved into a large tree trunk at Oak Hill Cemetery. Louis Hausmann of Cherokee has proposed a kneeling soldier be carved in the tree by Jeff Klatt, renowned chain saw sculpturer from Storm Lake. Hausmann is raising funds for the project and the City will not be involved monetarily in any way.
The Council also approved closing Main Street in downtown Cherokee for the annual Cherokee Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade December 3. As in the past, the popular lighted Parade begins at 5th Street and travels east down Main Street to Euclid Avenue.
The Council also approved the appointment of Randy Badtram to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and approved storefront renovation grants to the Gasthaus and Hairology in downtown Cherokee. The Gasthaus grant is for $2,300 and Hairology for $2,550, based on storefront lineal footage.
The condemnation process of dilapidated structures was also approved by the Council for properties at 331 E. Cedar St., 335 E. Cedar St., 220 W. Locust St., and 301 S. 6th St.