MOKANE — The Mokane Board of Aldermen welcomed a new member during Wednesday's city meeting.
Debra Taylor joined the board Wednesday to replace resigned member Ray Jennings.
"I begged and pleaded for her to join," joked Chad Booher, board member and mayor pro-tem.
A 43-year resident of Mokane, Taylor said her husband sat on the board many years ago.
As to why she agreed to join, Taylor said, "I've been interested in the sewer and water issues."
Water and sewer were hot topics at Wednesday's meeting. As reported last month, the small town is working to land low-interest loans and grants to pay the extensive work needed on the two systems. It will take at least $2.5 million in repairs and upgrades to bring them in line with Missouri Department of Natural Resources standards, Booher has said.
Between USDA's low-interest loans, several grants, FEMA aid following this year's flooding and a sewer grant from MAP, the city should be able to make the needed repairs without huge rate increases, Booher said. Another DNR grant the city is pursuing would allow it to clean out a creek that frequently floods pump stations.
However, to be eligible for many of the loans and grants, the city will need to pass a bond issue.
"We thought at one point we wouldn't have to do a bond issue, but when we met with Gilmore and Bell (a Kansas City company that specializes in walking cities through preparing municipal bond issues), they explained if we do a bond issue, we get free money toward our project," Mayor Jo Belmont said. "If we don't do a bond issue, the city pays for everything ourselves."
During Wednesday's meeting, alderman members voted to pass an ordinance combining the city's waterworks and sewage system for the purpose of funding. Rather than passing two separate bond issues for improvements on the systems, a single combined issue can fund both.
City residents will have to vote to pass the eventual bond issue in a future election. Though several people outside city limits are hooked into the water and/or sewer systems, they likely won't be eligible to vote on the bond, member Shauna Lenhard said.
"It would likely have to be a municipal vote because the people within city limits will be the ones paying for it," she said.
Mokane's leadership is also working to finalize documentation to receive FEMA public assistance for flood recovery and prevention. Public assistance funds can be used for projects such as repairing culverts, fixing damaged bridges and increasing height of the levees around the sewer lagoons.
"The mitigation money could be used to move that little old jail out of the floodplain," Booher added.
Lenhard said the city has identified all the damage eligible for funding and is now noting down the GPS coordinates to submit to FEMA.
To receive public assistance, Mokane will have to cover 25 percent of the repair costs, while FEMA will chip in with the other 75 percent. However, Mokane's share doesn't necessarily have to be monetary, Booher said.
"We've got a spreadsheet with all the volunteer hours, and that can go toward the amount of costs we have to pay," he said. "Even the time we spent in meetings counts."
Donations, such as the barriers the Mokane Lions Club donated, may be added to the total.
The city will also have to pass an ordinance codifying its policy for handling bids.