Drainage an issue in the coming year

Wild Rose, future development increase need for improved drainage

The challenges of recent growth and the potential for future growth are under consideration by elected officials and Greene County Development Corporation as they prepare to turn the calendar to a new year.

The past three years have seen significant growth in the number of jobs, with the opening of a new grocery store and a casino. But, GCDC director Ken Paxton this fall admitted that job growth had perhaps been too fast, and GCDC committed to a course of community development rather than pursuing more jobs.

Easing a shortage of available, affordable housing is a priority for planners for 2017.

At the same time, the Jefferson city council’s street/water/sewer committee is looking at improvements to land in the north part of the city pegged as future or potential development areas. The committee at its Nov. 15 meeting heard a presentation by Jim Leiding of Bolton & Menk of a north storm sewer study recently completed.

The study area stretched from Mulberry St to Grimmell Road, and generally from the north city limit south to the edge of GCDC-owned east and west business parks and then south to Central Ave. Wild Rose Casino is included in the study area.

The report notes that the city has been dealing with “poor drainage characteristics” in the study area for many years.

The area is in the county’s drainage district 59, constructed in 1913 to serve agricultural lands. At the time, no part of Jefferson drained into the ag drainage tile. As Jefferson developed to the north, commercial and industrial areas were developed into the watershed. Those businesses use DD59’s tile as their primary storm sewer.

The engineers recommend constructing a new storm sewer collector with a new outlet to Hardin Creek northeast of the study area. The collector would extend south from Hardin Creek along Highway 4 to the north side of the casino property, then to the west side of the casino and eventually south to the west business park.

The proposal breaks the project into five phases, but concludes that no real benefit will be attained until the first three phases are completed. Construction cost of the three phases is estimated at close to $3.9 million.

Greene County drainage coordinator Michelle Fields said that as long as no part of the project taps into existing county tile, her office will have no role in it.

According to the study, drainage issues pre-date construction of Wild Rose Casino. Jefferson city engineer John Milligan said there is no connection between the drainage issues noted in the study and those that are the subject of a lawsuit against Wild Rose Casino and Resorts.

Dick Finch, owner of 4-30 Farms Inc directly across Highway 4 from the casino, says drainage issues have become much worse since the large facility and its expanse of parking lots were built. He blames Wild Rose and has filed a civil suit against the casino in Greene County district court.

Finch alleges that the facility has altered the natural course of runoff, leading to erosion and crop damage. He has owned the property for 40 years, and says that until Wild Rose was built, storm water runoff went to the west. Now about 200 acres of farmland is getting east-flowing runoff it didn’t get before, Finch said.

Wild Rose spokesperson Jamie Buelt said, “On the advice of legal counsel, we cannot discuss pending litigation. We will say that Wild Rose Jefferson disputes these allegations and note that the claims in a legal petition constitute neither proof nor truth.”

According to Finch, a rainfall of one-half inch causes runoff on his land, and a 1-inch rainfall puts water on his property for three or four days. That has resulted in decreased yields.

Finch installed drainage tile a year ago looking for relief from the excess water. He is suing Wild Rose for reimbursement for the cost of the tile, and for lost crops and lower yields.

Finch says viewing the area as a potential development area is wrong. Although casino proponents said three years ago a casino would bring more commercial development to the intersection, no one has approached him about purchasing his property. He added that another owner of nearby agricultural property has said the same.

Finch’s lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing next August.

Funding for preliminary engineering work for a storm water project is part of a $1 million package the city council hopes to pay for with tax increment financing made possible by an amendment to the current urban renewal plan. The council will hold a public hearing on that amendment at its Jan. 10 meeting.


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