Former mayor warns of aging infrastructure

Friday, May 1, 2020

A former mayor of Alta hopes to draw attention to issues with aging infrastructure in the community - an issue similar to that being faced by many communities of similar vintage around the area.

Al Clark, who left office at the end of 2019, says the problems extend to water lines, sewer lines and storm sewers, and is concerned that the city hasn’t made progress on upgrades.

“The problem isn’t going to fix itself,” Clark said, comparing it to the struggle to improve the trailer court that city government had wrestled with during his term.

“Virtually the entire town needs to be replaced,” he told the Pilot-Tribune. “The infrastructure is antiquated to the point of being terrible. There are a lot of iron pipes, and that means iron and magnesium in the water,” Clark said. He said he needed to install a reverse osmosis system in his home for drinking water, and felt that the iron-rich water settling in appliances like water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines reduces their lifespan.

Clark says he has had repeated sewage backups into his basement, which he blames on city sewer pipes joining two-into-one into a line with too little capacity near his property.

The Clarks say they suffered $2,500 in damages in the last backup, having to dispose of carpeting, and paint and disinfect the lower level of their home. The former mayor said the city had to reimburse another homeowner last year after a backup.

He says he tried to focus attention on the needs as mayor, but the council did not take action. “The city keeps kicking the can down the road,” he said.

After checking with the Iowa League of Cities about potential funding, Clark is pushing for Alta city government to seek grants and low-income loans to begin upgrading the underground systems. An issue he says, is that some residents have sump pumps hooked directly into the sewer line in violation of state regulations.

To gain funding, the city is likely to have to document the situation by going home to home for inspections, which would raise some anger among residents, Clark suggests.

“There’s no easy fix. It’s going to be expensive,” he admits, saying that with low interest rates, now is the time to begin work. “The cost is only going to go up if we push it off,” he said.

Clark said he is going to push vocally for the city to turn attention to the infrastructure.

He felt that the money the city is raising from an increase in property tax levies should be earmarked toward the infrastructure needs instead of other departments and projects. “The waste of money in this town is unreal,” he claimed.