By ERIC X. VICCARO
Steve Shuh and Terry Bergtholdt from Shuh and Sons Plumbing discussed stormwater concerns with the Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen during last Thursday’s regular meeting.
Both men talked to the board during the public comment period of the session, and discussions lasted for roughly 20 minutes.
At the heart of the matter was a heavy rain event that occurred on Monday, Aug. 23, in which Shuh and Sons suffered major flood damage.
“There is a pipe under the highway (State Highway 32/Center Street) that’s not big enough for the water,” Shuh told the aldermen.
While development may be a good thing, it is impacted how the city can handle excess stormwater.
When the original pipes were constructed during the 1960s, the area was mostly farmland.
Today, Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital, clinics, homes and apartment complexes have sprouted up around Shuh and Sons Plumbing.
Shuh reported the latest rain caused a reported $50,000 in damage to the business.
“We can’t afford that,” he said. “We’re a small business. This was as bad as it ever has been, and it’s devastating for us, with what we lost in tools, equipment and furniture.”
Shuh and Bergtholdt told the board there isn’t a type of insurance they can purchase to cover these weather events.
Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan sympathized with the men, and then the board discussed a 2005 report which covered stormwater issues along Highway 32.
City administrator Happy Welch said that the city already has addressed many of the concerns.
There was a “punch list” of recommendations in that report from two decades ago.
One of the issues that hasn’t been tackled, either by the city or the Missouri Department of Transportation, is constructing larger pipes under the highway.
Mayor Paul Hassler was concerned if the pipes were fixed along 32, problems could still surface.
“You’ll send it down the line,” Hassler cautioned.
Paraphrasing Ward 3 Alderman Mike Raney, he said stormwater problems have become a “shell game that’s been moved around.”
Raney is hoping for a holistic approach to addressing stormwater, which may require hiring a consultant, maybe even a hydrologist.
Welch and Hassler were awake one recent early morning after another bout of heavy rain. In this instance, 1.7 inches of rain fell in 35 minutes – and the Shuh and Sons’ parking lot was flooded yet again.
“Water crept over the ditch,” Welch said.
The intended target for heavy rains along Highway 32 is a sinkhole near the Pointe Basse Subdivision.
Welch said the current system “can’t handle” flooding rains.
Ward 4 Alderwoman Ashley Armbruster was concerned about how rain is backing up in the system. A larger retention pond be another way to solve the stormwater woes.
David Schwarz, manager of the local Subway restaurant, also has been dealing with stormwater issues — and he addressed the board. Schwarz is worried a ditch is causing erosion concerns with his property.
Schwarz said he could band-aid the issue, but he’s worried about causing damage to other nearby properties.
City attorney Mark Bishop said while the city may have a moral obligation to help Schwarz — and repair the ditch — there is “no legal liability.”