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By Mike Scott
The City of Memphis had a busy year in 2020, although most of the public probably doesn’t realize it.
“We’ve been targeting infrastructure improvements,” said Memphis City Administrator Allen Creek in an interview with the Memphis Democrat on Thursday, December 31.
“We’ve been focusing on water, sewer and streets,” Creek said.
These aren’t “sexy” projects that draw a lot of public attention, but they are vital for cities.
“Everyone forgets about the sanitary sewer system,” said Creek.
Among the issues facing Memphis, and most cities in northeast Missouri, is inflow and infiltration into their sanitary sewer system. In short, the problem is ground water or run off water that finds its way into the sanitary system. In a heavy rain, that can cause the city’s wastewater lagoon to overflow, releasing wastewater into local streams and rivers.
The city can face steep fines from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources if the problem is not addressed.
To combat the issue, the city has hired VISU-Sewer, a company that specializes in inspecting and repairing sewer lines. Other area towns that have used, or are currently using VISU-Sewer, include Kahoka and Edina.
“They will clean and camera our old clay tile lines,” said Creek. Clay tile is susceptible to breaking and separating, allowing water to enter.
VISU-Sewer will provide the city with a map of the entire sanitary sewer system, and identify areas where repairs are needed.
“We can cherry-pick the easy stuff and do it ourselves to save money,” Creek added.
VISU-Sewer can seal leaking areas by pumping a sealant into cracks and blowing a liner into the sewer system, or lines can be replaced. Either project will take a number of years, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A secondary inflow and infiltration project focuses on repairing and relining brick manholes. The city hired Spectratech to repair and reline about 20 manholes in 2020.
These projects will continue into 2021 and beyond.
Further down the sanitary sewer system, the city has made improvements at the lagoon, where one pump had failed and the other was failing. The city negotiated a loan with USDA which allowed them to acquire new pumps to help irrigate surrounding fields with wastewater, thus reducing the volume in the lagoon, and reducing the chance of overflow into streams.
Over in the water department, the city has made improvements at the water plant, with stainless steel clear wells, new filters, and a variable flow drive to pump water without “hammering” the system when the pump starts.
The city also replaced between 1900 – 2000 feet of old, cast-iron water mains in 2020.
“We were having a lot of problems with water breaks,” said Creek.
Under the multi-year program, the city will replace sections of the waterline with PVC pipe, which does not corrode and is more flexible with ground shifting. To aid in that project, the city purchased a mini excavator and additional safety equipment.
In 2021, plans include replacing more water line, and cleaning and inspecting the water tower.
Moving above ground, the city sealed the pavement around the square in 2020. It was unable to chip and seal streets, because the chips were not available.
“In 2021, we want to start earlier and do more,” said Creek.
The city is also getting bids on an asphalt milling attachment for a skid steer, which will help make pothole repair easier and more permanent.
Improvements at Johnson Park are also underway.
“The ball field will have a new fence,” said Creek. “We’re also building a new shelter. The cement is in place now, and we’ll work on the shelter when the weather is better.”
A new T-ball field is also being built, which will alleviate practice congestion on other fields.
Memphis’ electrical system is also continuing to be upgraded.
“We’re upgrading from 2400 volts to 7200 volts,” said Creek. “We also replaced a transformer in 2020. That project will continue into 2020 and beyond.
In 2020, the city received a Solid Waste grant from the Regional Planning Commission, which allowed them to purchase a conveyor-fed baler for the recycling center. The baler creates bigger and heavier bales. The city also purchased a fork truck to move the bales.
At the airport, eight new T-hangars will be installed in 2021, as well as an expansion of the apron.
Lake improvements planned for 2021 include adding four additional campsites, installing a courtesy dock. Electrical upgrades at several campsites, and at the trap range, are also in progress.
The City Pool has been leaking water for some time. Repairs are underway, and should be completed before the weather gets warm.
Memphis may have fewer blighted structures in 2021 and beyond. According to Creek, the city is creating a blight removal program which will help property owners demolish dilapidated residential structures.
“We’re still working on the details, but we would like to roll it out in 2021,” said Creek.
“2020 was a rough year. Hopefully, 2021 will be better for everyone,” added Creek.