Public works team was ready for rising waters
Planning, preparations and advanced maintenance paid off for the City of Cassville's public works department when flood waters rushed into Cassville on April 18. Crew members remained vigilante regarding flooding issues, but only encountered one area that needed constant attention last Thursday morning.
"Because of what we learned two years ago, with the flooding that happened in the same month, we were well prepared and started staking out areas early that morning," said Steve Walensky, public works director. "We were watching for the water to start to rise, and the first area of concern was the low water bridge in the city park near the public works facility. We quarantined that area and then patrolled the community looking for hot spots. One that continued to get to us was the bridge on Sale Barn Road."
Dwayne Moller, public works foreman, returned to the bridge several times and used a backhoe to remove debris from the waterway, which is a branch of Flat Creek.
"Because it was dry for so long, debris had gathered in the creek bed and the minute the water pushes that debris through it begins to clog up areas," said Walensky.
The debris build up in the Brock/Horner Branch waterway that runs under Highway 248 did not restrict water movement through that area. That creek bed was recently cleaned by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as the request of the city.
Walensky said debris also did not clog Lee Branch, which is located near the Cassville Aquatic Park, or Troublesome Branch, which is located near 10th Street. Troublesome Branch overflowed during a similar flooding event two years ago.
"We were patrolling all of these areas," said Walensky. "The only area that we saw an issue was on Sale Barn Road."
Walensky said crew members were closely watching the area around Barry County Ready Mix, but flooding did not reach a state of concern there and roadways remained open last Thursday morning.
"Everything else was able to be maintained," said Walensky. "We did have some neighborhood issues with whistles that needed repaired, including a pretty good sized one in Sherwood Forest. We were able to bring the backhoe in and free that up.
"Most of the whistles in the city have been maintained throughout the season," said Walensky. "When they get leaf accumulation, depending on how bad the flood is, they can get plugged up, but most people keep them cleaned out and that makes a world of difference when we have flash flood conditions."
In addition to monitoring area waterways, the city's public works crew monitored sewer surcharges, which are caused by inflow and infiltration (I and I) into the sanitary system and result in excess water escaping through manhole covers. These issues are reported to DNR, and public works crews place barricades on impacted manhole covers to ensure traffic safety.
"Our goal is to repair our sewer system to eliminate the I and I so that the only thing getting in there is wastewater," said Walensky. "Last year, it was so dry, and we didn't have the moisture we have had this year, but the year before that we had these surcharges constantly, and it was a lot worse.
"This is the reason we signed the voluntary compliance agreement to work with DNR on a plan to fix these things over a period of time," added Walensky.
Last year, Walensky reorganized the public works department and created a dedicated collections team, which includes staff members Keith Gregory and Kenny Schieler. The collections team televises the sewer lines to identify issues, which are repaired. The team also cleans the entire system once a year.
"I give a lot of credit to the public works team," said Walensky. "They are veterans. They have been through these (flash floods) before, and they know what to look for."
In addition to patrolling the streets and looking for flooded roadways, the public works team depends on feedback from local citizens and businesses to identify problem areas.
"We work together as a community," said Walensky.
The public works team did not have to call for assistance from the Cassville Fire Protection District during the flash floods last week. The local fire protection district provides emergency services during rescue scenarios.