Monroe County Courthouse

The beautifully restored exterior of the courthouse.

It wasn’t a particularly fun start to the Albia City Council meeting as council members met with three homeowners concerning basement flooding on June 26-27. Albia experienced a 5-6” rainfall in the course of about 12 hours and about three and a half inches fell within less than a half hour.

City Attorney Bob Breckenridge called it “an act of God” that would likely not be covered by city insurance.

The net result was basement flooding throughout the city. Robert Pistek, Jan and Robyn Haselhuhn and John Thompson all complained to the council about the losses they incurred and the cause of the back up of both storm sewers and sanitary sewers.

Thompson said his home had experienced flooding a few years ago and he had installed a sump pump and placed items in his basement on shelves. “The pressure was incredible,” he said. “Water inundated my sump pump and blew plastic totes off the shelves.” He said he had flood insurance to help cover a $12,000 loss (his furnace and hot water heater were ruined among other things) but he was still out a $2,200 deductible.

Thompson told the council that he thought part of the problem was the fact that there are no sewer drains along Benton Avenue.

Robert Pistek who had water and sewage back into his basement, said his entire basement was flooded. He argued that the city owned the sewer and storm sewer system and that he “didn’t want to get dinged on insurance because your system backed up.”

Councilman Dennis Conley, who sits on the sewer committee, asked Pistek if his foundation drainage system emptied into the city’s sewer system. Pistek said he wasn’t sure. “We know that a lot of foundation drainage systems do drain into the city’s sewer and storm sewer systems and that can be the cause of basement flooding,” said Conley. “We also have people who let their eve spouts empty into the city storm sewers. When you get the kind of rain we had that Friday, it just overtakes the system and backs up.”

Councilman Brandon Williams asked about “jetting” the city systems to see if there are problems that might cause the back-ups. Sewer jetting is a method of cleaning out sewers and drain lines by using high-pressure water streams through specialized jetting nozzles to dislodge and clear obstructions, as well as perform regular maintenance to prevent sewage backups.

Apparently the city owns equipment to do jetting.

“We could do smoke tests and jetting,” said Conley. “We’re trying to fix these problems with new lining. We’re aggressively trying to fix the problems. It’s not for lack of trying.”

The Haselhuhns, whose home is just off Benton Avenue East on 13th, said they had lived in their home for 35 years and have never had a basement flooding problem. Damage to their basement was estimated between $17,000 and $18,000 and is uninsured. “We lost things that can’t be replaced,” Robin said. “We feel it’s the city’s responsibility. We think the city should file a claim on their insurance.”

“We have filed claims in the past,” said Mayor Richard Clark. “But we’ve never had our insurance carrier pay for a claim.” He directed City Clerk Linda Heller to make a call to their carrier on Tuesday morning.

Fireworks complaints

The council also heard a complaint from Nellie Coltrain (who lives on 13th Street near Fourth Avenue) about a powerful firework going through her sun porch window. The cost of replacing the window is almost $900. Coltrain added that fireworks also landed on her roof. She said she contacted the mayor and then the police who investigated. “I’m really not opposed to fireworks, but if we have an ordinance it ought to be enforced,” she said. The incident occurred on June 29, several days before the use of fireworks is legal (July 3 and July 4). “There are no reason to have rules if we don’t enforce them,” she said. “I’m sort of an innocent bystander.

Later in the meeting, Assistant Police Chief Brad Evinger said city police investigated numerous complaints throughout the Fourth of July holiday. “We took numerous calls and it is almost impossible to catch someone. By the time we get there, they’re not shooting fireworks any more.”

Councilman Merle Regenold, who reminded the room that he voted against allowing fireworks in the city in the first place, said they should revisit the ordinance. Councilman Brandon Williams was firm that people in the city should be able to shoot off legal fireworks. The council agreed to talk about the ordinance at a later meeting.

Planning and Zoning issues

The council approved two Planning and Zoning decisions. P&Z approved the closure of an alley next to property owned by Jim and Becky Belzer on Benton Avenue East. The Belzers plan to build a garage after purchasing the alley from the city. The city will actually put the small piece of property up for bids.

They also affirmed the P&Z board’s decision to deny a conditional use permit for a junk and scrap business on 10th Street.

Other routine items at the council movie included:

• Approved creating an ordinance for no parking on South Second Street from Fourth to Sixth on the east side of the street.

• Approved the advertisement of bids for storm sewer repair on Edwards Street and to repair a drain at the cemetery.

• Approved the advertisement for bids on the Monroe County Aquatic Center train slide.

• Approved tobacco permits for Albia BP, Casey’s North and South, Jim & Charlies, Hy-Vee and Dollar General.

• Approved mowing abatements of $300 each for 1203 Benton Avenue East and 222 South Second Street.

Under supervisor reports, Jeff Stephens reported the completion of repairs on Old Highway 34 below St. Mary’s Church and the beginning of street striping.

Recommended for you