Friday, March 24, 2017

Water towers,our state flag and sidewalks

Thanks to everyone who turned out over the noon hour yesterday to celebrate the 110th birthday of the 150,000-gallon water tower that towers over City Hall --- and indirectly the 110th anniversary of the Chariton Water Department. Chariton didn't have a formal water department back in 1907, but that was the year the first city-wide water distribution system was built and water began flowing through it.

You can read more about the history of the water tower and development of the water system by following this link. Thursday's gathering was sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission.

It was fun to visit with Water Department and city staff, as well as other guests, yesterday --- and talk a little about both history and the future.

As I think everyone in Chariton knows by now, our water supply source will shift in a couple of years from Lakes Ellis and Morris and the treatment plant east of town to Lake Rathbun and the Rathbun Rural Water Association. The association's giant treatment plant is just downstream from the big dam northwest of Centerville and it supplies much of southeast Iowa as well as considerable territory in northeast Missouri. So it won't be long before Chariton residents are drinking (thoroughly treated) Chariton River water.

The shift will relieve the city of the complexities of keeping an independent water treatment plant up to date and running to standard while dealing with the sometimes problematic condition of water from our two relatively shallow city-owned lakes.

I learned yesterday that Rathbun water is drawn for treatment at a lake depth of 50 feet and therefore is not subject to the variations present in shallower waters; that the new line bringing water into town will follow roughly the same path of the line that now transports water in from the Chariton treatment plant; and that the Rathbun Association plans to erect another of its rural towers as a result of bringing Chariton online.


Speaking of anniversaries, 2017 also could be considered the centennial year for Iowa's state flag, designed during 1917 by Knoxville's own Dixie Cornell Gebhardt (the flag was not officially adopted until 1921, however).

Several of us were in Knoxville Wednesday and I was delighted to find this display just inside the entrance of the city's municipal building created apparently from the remains of one of the billboards that used to welcome visitors to town and celebrate our neighbor to the north as the official home of the banner.

The flag came about because, going into World War I, Iowa didn't have an official banner, so the governor in that year asked for designs. Gebhardt, state Daughters of the American Revolution regent  and a charter member of Knoxville's Mary Marion Chapter, submitted the winner.

My favorite piece of Gebhardt trivia involves her name. Her father, a physician who may have been slightly eccentric, named his three daughters after his favorite trotting horses --- Iowa Belle, Jim Dick and Jackie. 

Dixie was blest with the name Jim Dick Cornell. You can see why she preferred "Dixie."


We were in Knoxville, led by Kris Patrick, director of Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street, and Joe Gaa, city manager, to learn more about that city's 3.2-million "streetscape" project, completed a couple of years ago and financed by local option sales tax revenue.

"Streetscape" is kind of a loaded term, since it implies cosmetics rather than substance, but in Knoxville's case the project was undertaken because the sanitary sewer infrastructure that serves the square was buried deep (up to 20 feet in some instances) under the streets of the square and was collapsing.

So one side of the square at a time, streets and sidewalks were torn up, the ground under them excavated and all new utilities, including sanitary sewers, storm sewers and water lines, installed. Then streets were rebuilt and repaved and new sidewalks, street lighting, signage, etc., installed.

Knoxville City Manager Aaron Adams (above) and staff members who had worked on the project and monitored the work of its contractors (below) led us step by step through the process, then guided a walking tour so that we could take a look at the beautifully done cosmetic finishing touches.

The principal concern in Chariton at the moment is the condition of the sidewalks around the square, but consideration of sidewalk replacement also involves thinking about what's buried underneath them and/or embedded in them, including street lighting and signage. Then it's necessary to think, too, about utilities buried under the streets and condition of the streets and curbing, too. 

So it gets very complicated. I would guess we'll hear more about this in the next few years, so be prepared for informational meetings --- and to provide input.

I was quite taken by the new storm sewer ports. Note the warning, "Dump no Waste. Drains to River." And the Marion County Courtouse, restored several years ago, certainly is among Iowa's most magnificent.

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