McGregor sewer woes: nearly collapsed section of main one of the major culprits

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The city of McGregor has discovered one of the culprits of its Main Street sewer woes: a section of the sewer main near Kwik Star has almost completely collapsed.

“It’s totally trashed at this point,” Mark Davy, with Davy Engineering, told the city council at its Aug. 21 meeting. “When the river’s high, there’s significant infiltration and inflow [to the sewer main]. The water’s flowing through there as fast as it can go. It’s one of the reasons why you’ve had problems at the sewer plant and with the pump on Main Street.”

But this was just one of the issues a crew found during recent cleaning and televising of several sections of Main Street. There are also problems in the Third to Fourth Street section, with many separated joints.

Davy said significant infiltration here indicates excess ground water, and it could stem from when the artesian well was capped at the site of the Troutfetter building. The building, located next to the library where the pocket park was recently created, was destroyed by the July 2017 tornado and torn down. While it was still operational, water was pumped from the basement almost year-round.

The objective now, explained Davy, is to lessen or remove the need to bypass on Main Street and remove the pump that is now helping to prevent basement backups. That will likely involve replacing the worst sections of sewer yet this year, before Davy Engineering tackles plans for a larger-scale sewer improvement project for the 100 to 600 blocks of Main Street and as needed on A Street from Main to First Street.

“We want to come in next year and take it all, but a lot of steps need to be taken,” Davy said. “There’s no short-term fix yet, but we have a general idea where the problems are, and we’ll continue to investigate. We want to find the lowest-cost alternative to limp along until we can fix it entirely.”

Davy is hopeful that whatever work is performed this year can tie into the future project, rather than having to be re-done.

Street supervisor Ren Pape has also been working hard to deal with the infiltration and inflow problems, which resulted in eventual wastewater discharges to the Mississippi River.

“The DNR has been on us, and we’ve been in contact every day,” he said. “We got the pump off the road, so now we just have to deal with the metal strip. I hope we can do a temporary fix to get through.”

In the meantime, Davy Engineering will be developing preliminary plans and designs for the Main Street sewer project. The council approved a $25,000 contract for the work at the meeting.  Davy said he will also help secure financing for the project.

“It’s a challenging project all around,” he admitted, “but that’s my job, to find financing and determine what kind of package we can combine with multiple agencies.”

No speed bumps for Center Street after all

The city is walking back its decision to place speed bumps on Center Street, following complaints from a number of residents.

Bob Wiemerslage was one of those not in favor. The street already has a number of dips and raises that prevent people from going too fast, he told the council. Since it’s one of the main routes in and out of town, speed bumps could actually make the street more hazardous.

Mayor Lyle Troester said he’s heard the same comments from others, and proposed the installation of a flashing speed sign on Center Street instead.

“Those flashing signs get me. I immediately go to the brake,” he said. “I think it’s less encroachable to the residents who live up there.”

Resident Joe Brooks, who with wife Sharon originally proposed the speed bumps, wondered how a sign would change behavior. It’s not the people in the neighborhood who disobey the speed limit, he said, but those who pass through.

“Cars really zip in and out. And with school starting, there will be more children near the street. I’ve spoken to families in the neighborhood and they’re in agreement that it’s a concern,” Brooks stated. “Unless [the sign] has a camera, it’s not going to help.”

Although the battery operated sign the council agreed to purchase won’t have a camera, police chief Robert Millin said it will still provide him with valuable traffic data regarding vehicle speed and the day and time it occurred. The police can then use that information to better monitor the street.

The council agreed to try the sign and see how it goes. The city will also place additional signage on the street, reminding drivers of the speed limit and that children are at play.

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