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Levee inspection regs worry Florence council

Staff writer

Florence City Council members met Monday for a work session.

The main issue the council discussed was the certification of Florence’s levee on the Cottonwood River.

With Marion County having been mapped in the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map, FEMA officials told council members April 5 that the levee needs to be certified by a professional engineering firm.

Florence officials contacted Wilson and Company in Salina and found that the beginning of the levee inspection could cost the city $50,000; when the inspection is completed, it could cost as much as $250,000, council member Trayce Warner said. If the engineering company that inspects the levee makes suggestions to improve the levee, FEMA may require the city to make those improvements before it will approve the levee as being able to withstand a 100-year flood.

“We can’t come up with $100,000 to certify the dike,” council member Randy Mills said.

To raise the funds for the inspection, the council would have to pass a bond issue, raising taxes for citizens.

“Our property owners are on a fixed income,” Warner said.

FEMA’s requirement of an inspection conducted by an outside engineering company perplexes the council because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspects the levee every year. The corps’ inspection of the levee was completed for this year. Mills said the corps of engineers said the levee was structurally sound. The corps did suggest the removal of the Fifth Street bridge because the bridge collects fallen trees that can block the flow of water.

Mills and Warner said they were told by FEMA that the corps inspection was not as thorough as an inspection conducted by outside engineers. Warner said engineers would drill into the levee to access its structural integrity and would access the level of the riverbed in terms of silt buildup.

FEMA’s Kansas City office external affairs specialist Josh DeBerg said Florence has two years to conduct an inspection of the levee and send the documentation to FEMA.

Another option the council discussed was to ignore FEMA’s demand. The consequence for this potential decision would be the city would not appear to have a levee on Marion County flood maps.

While Florence would still have the levee and would not be worse off in case of a torrential flood, all Florence residents and business owners would occupy buildings which then fall into the flood plain territory, DeBerge said.

Being in a flood plain would require residents to purchase flood insurance. DeBerge said national flood insurance — provided through the National Flood Insurance Plan — can cost as much as $200 to $300 per year on the low end of coverage or as much as several thousands of dollars depending on the type of building insured.

With many other Kansas cities in the same bind as Florence, a coalition of city officials and lawmakers will meet May 19 in Overland Park. The goal is to eventually influence federal lawmakers to change FEMA’s policy to allow Army Corps of Engineers annual inspection to be enough for 100-year flood certification.

Council member John Swarm will attend the May 19 meeting. Mayor Mary Shipman also asked City Clerk Janet Robinson to draft a letter of support and send it to the coalition. The council also talked about drafting a letter to send to Florence residents explaining the situation, but decided against any letter until after the May 19 meeting.

Trash

The council discussed providing trash service through Waste Connections instead of they city providing the service to Florence, Marion County Lake, Burns, Cedar Point, and several rural stops.

“I think it’s crazy a town our size sends a trash truck out once a month and you can dump as much as you want behind the city building,” Swarm said. “As citizens of a small town we have to do more and expect less. We live here; we’re going to have to start doing some stuff.”

Warner said the city is currently making a profit with their trash service, but that profit is not enough to cover the expense of a new trash truck.

Trash truck driver Danny Kyle earns $24,000 a year, Robinson said. The next highest expense is the truck itself, which costs between $16,000 and $20,000 a year in fuel and repairs, Mills said.

Florence charges $7.75 per person per month for trash pickup, Warner said.

The truck is 15 years old, the compactor of the truck is eight years old.

Currently the city pays $40 a ton to dump at the Marion County transfer station; they could save $3 a ton by changing to Waste Connections.

The city of Peabody has contracted their trash service for years, Deputy City Clerk Stephanie Ax said. Peabody used Stutzman Refuse Incorporated before they were bought out by Waste Connections. Ax said Peabody makes about $1 profit per trash customer.

“If we have about 500 utility accounts, that’s $500 a month without overhead,” Ax said.

A downside to using a commercial trash pickup company is the wear and tear of heavy trash trucks on city streets, Ax said. Although they are not the only vehicles on Peabody streets, Ax said many streets with soft shoulders have deteriorated.

Roller skating

The council received a letter from Continental Western that the annual insurance fee for the gym would increase $100 — from $3,933 to $4,033 — to accommodate roller skating events once a month.

Last modified April 27, 2011

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