Tri-State Water Coalition addresses council

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Monday night, the Cassville City Council received a report on the Tri-State Water Coalition. The aldermen were addressed by Gail Melgren.

"We have been working for several years now on water issues, meaning water supply, not water quality," said Melgren. "We are a regional organization. There is not enough time here to cover the issue, but I will give you an overview and I am available to talk to you individually."

Melgren explained that the coalition is made up of a group of water suppliers and communities in southwest Missouri. Communities are mostly located around Stockton Lake and Table Rock Lake but also extend to the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders.

"The coalition started in Joplin when a group began thinking about water shortage," said Melgren.

Over the years, Springfield, Branson, Lamar and smaller communities, like Monett and Cassville, have joined the group.

"We now have representation across the whole footprint," said Melgren. "Our mission is long-term water supply for communities."

The coalition has worked with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to gather information on the current water supply and develop ideas for where additional water could be found.

"We have identified 17 possible sites where reservoirs could be built or where water could be obtained, including Table Rock and Stockton lakes," said Melgren. "It is a complicated process through which coalitions or municipalities get rights to water."

Melgren said that the coalition is working with the Corps of Engineers as the Corps revises its master plan this year.

"We want them to look at what it would take to reallocate a little bit of the water currently allocated for hydro electric power or flood prevention," said Melgren. "We would reallocate water already being used. This would not change the lake levels at all, which I know is something a lot of people are concerned with."

The Tri-State Water Coalition has established a separate organization called the Joint Municipal Water Coalition (JMWC), which will be used for building projects in the future. JMWC has bonding authority, which will allow multiple communities to work together to pay for projects that single communities could not afford.

"You share the debt and share the benefit," said Melgren.

Steve Walensky, Cassville public works director, is a member of the Tri-State Water Coalition Board. He also serves on the organization's technical committee.

"Steve has done a fine job of representing Cassville," said Melgren. "He keeps his eyes and ears open to how these issues relate to Cassville. A lot of communities take water for granted, but we must remember that without water, communities can't grow and develop.

"We live in an area that is water rich compared to the west, but we can't overuse our resource or it will become scarce," added Melgren.

In addition to planning for future water supplies, the coalition works to educate people regarding water conservation.

"We talk with local officials, and we talk with legislators at the state layer," said Melgren. "Now, we are taking the next stop to talk with the federal layer of decision makers. This is new for us, but we think it is an important step in making connections for projects like ours."

In new business, aldermen discussed a request to allow a farmers' market in the parking lot of Tractor Supply Company on Old Exeter Road.

"The previous administrator set up a system to allow farmers' markets at Tractor Supply inside the city limits," said Darelyn Cooper, city finance officer. "He did this to bring sales tax revenue into the city.

"The way it was set up was that seasonal sales permits were issued to one vendor who would take care of the market," said Cooper. "The vendor then charged people $15 annually to participate, but the city didn't receive any of that money. We did receive the sales tax generated from sales."

After the vendor requested a permit this year, Cooper decided to bring the issue back to the council for consideration. The council decided to review the ordinance and make a decision on the issue at a future meeting.

Alderman Ann Hennigan asked city staff members about three computers that were purchased but not included in the 2013 budget.

"What's changed?" asked Hennigan. "We are barely over the first quarter."

Walensky reported that one of the computers was purchased for the city's new city clerk. An additional computer was needed while Cooper remains on staff to train the new office staff members. Cooper is retiring in May but will continue to offer part-time assistance as needed.

A second computer was needed to replace the computer used by the municipal court clerk.

"Her PC (personal computer) was virtually outdated," said Walensky. "The problems had gotten so bad that she was handwriting a lot of her work instead of using the technology. It was out of gas. We didn't realize that when we did the budget."

The third computer was ordered for the meter replacement project, which will begin May 1. The laptop will be needed to collect data from the new meters and will allow the public works team to identify water loss sources.

In other business, the Cassville City Council:

* Heard that local volunteers will clean ditches and collect litter throughout the city from 3 to 6 p.m. on April 22, which is Earth Day.

* Discussed outstanding municipal court fines.

* Reviewed the revenue sales tax report, which showed that sales tax was up 2.4 percent in April, but the city's sales tax is still down 1.1 percent year-to-date.

* Approved the first reading of an ordinance for the voluntary annexation of property owned by Bob and Sue Mitchell.

* Heard that the city-wide clean-up will be held May 6 through May 10.

* Approved the first reading of an ordinance for the voluntary annexation of a portion of the Cassville Aquatic Park.

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