Citizens request Belle aldermen correct water concerns, city policies

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 4/28/21

The Belle Board of Aldermen heard from citizens on April 13 about water drainage issues and curbing requests before later discussing the city’s meter replacement project.

At least two of the …

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Citizens request Belle aldermen correct water concerns, city policies


The Belle Board of Aldermen heard from citizens on April 13 about water drainage issues and curbing requests before later discussing the city’s meter replacement project.

At least two of the five speakers during public discussion were Belle residents who had water issues that they believe ultimately fall on the city. 

The first, Vincent MacClugage, was present to request something be done in front of his residence in the 300 block of East Fourth Street to prevent his driveway and yard from washing out when it rains. MacClugage began by telling aldermen that he has requested multiple times for the city to install curbing at his residence to help solve the water issues.

“My land is washing away,” MacClugage told the board. “We have looked at the ordinances. The curbing needs to be refinished and extended in front of my house. I can’t get a driveway put in because of the water and my wife has bad knees.”

MacClugage said both the trash and mail services have complained to him about the condition of the property due to excess water.

“We need to figure out how to direct the water around the property,” MacClugage continued.

Aldermen discussed the property and who is responsible for the curbing. Mayor Steve Vogt said the city used to have curb repair/replacement on a rotation, but since the Johnson Street project, nothing has been done. He also said some property owners who are impatient may share half the cost with the city to have curbs installed.

Alderman Courtney Abel said when the city works on the budget for 2021-22, they need to budget for curbing.

“I make a motion to move Mr. MacClugage’s residence to top priority for curbing,” Abel said.

The motion was seconded by Alderman Jeanette Struemph and passed with a 4-0 vote.

Local resident Rebecca Withouse was also present to express concerns regarding the water leaks she has had at her residence and that it took over a year to fix them because the city said it was the landlord’s responsibility and the landlord said it was on the city. It turns out the landlord was correct.

“I have had a water leak at my house for over a year — since 2019. The leak went on for eight to nine months and flooded my neighbors’ yards and our shed,” Withouse said. “The first time, the city fixed it. The second time, they said it was our responsibility.”

Withouse said the leak flooded everyone on the street and the neighboring field, but no matter the calls they made, they weren’t able to get it fixed because everyone said it was someone else’s responsibility.

“It was the city’s fault because the bottom fell out of our meter,” Withouse said, emphasizing that if the city had fixed the leak to begin with, there would not have been a water leak and they wouldn’t have lost thousands of gallons of water that went unbilled. 

“How much water was wasted from a known source?” she asked. “I don’t want to live that way. How much mold am I going to be drying out? I have three kids and we shouldn’t have to deal with it.”

She also questioned the loss of revenue from the water that was wasted.

“Would it have been worth you fixing the problems?” she asked. “We are one of the few cities that doesn’t cover the water lines up to the meters. I want you to be aware that you may break water lines while replacing the meters.”

Belle Public Works employee Tony Baretich said his understanding was that the city thought in 2019 that the issue was on them. After digging up the leak, they discovered it was on the landlord, but fixed the leak since they were there and sent a bill to the landlord.

“My concern is with the city replacing the water meters,” she continued. “We live in an elder community. If you break a pipe while you are digging, will it be on the city or the residents?

I just don’t want someone else to have to deal with it. You are putting stress and exposing pipes to air. We don’t want to go down the route of bandaids. Fix it right, get it done.”

She did not ask for property damage reimbursement, even though a large hole was left in her yard and personal items received water damage.

Vogt said the situation could have been handled better.

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” he said. 

The board didn’t discuss Withouse’s questions about who would be responsible for any water line breaks that may happen during the water meter replacement project. However, Abel did say that Withouse should receive some kind of reimbursement if the leak damaged her property after being told multiple times that it was not the responsibility of the city.

No action was taken. Baretich asked for confirmation to get bids for the curbing to be fixed, replaced or added for this summer.

Abel later brought up a culvert pipe issue at the intersection of Roher and Belle Avenue.

“The water issue there is terrible,” she said. “Last year (a property owner) said if he bought the culvert, the city agreed to put it in.”

Baretich said he wasn’t sure if the city was covered to do that.

“We asked for them to maintain the problem,” Abel said. “When they buy the culvert, the least we can do is front the money to put it in.”

Abel suggested making a motion that if a business or resident wants to purchase a culvert to help with water issues, the city would install it. Vogt suggested that the city has to approve of the size of the culvert.

Baretich mentioned another resident had asked for a culvert at the alley Eighth Street and Johnson Avenue because they use the alley to access their driveway. Abel said if there is a culvert already there that is causing issues, the city should replace it.

“I make a motion that if a property owner buys a culvert with the city’s permission, the city will install it,” Abel said.

The motion passed with a 4-0 vote.

Abel added that she had several issues she wanted to bring up about the Public Works operations. 

“Why are we contacting the city engineer at $138 an hour when we have certified people to do the job?” Abel asked.

She said a city employee was contacting the engineer without permission to ask whether a boil order should be put into place, followed by an email, and another phone call.

“It is wasteful spending out of that budget and is not approved calls or emails,” Abel said.

She also called the employee out about large holes that were left unmanned that she would consider a public danger to children and small animals.

“A hole was left unattended, it was deep and had water in it,” Abel said. “There was no means for anyone to get out if they fell in and it was right off of Highway 28 when they were fixing a water main break. It is a huge liability. We should consider a policy.”

No further action was taken.


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