In a wide-ranging meeting on Nov. 13, the Hamburg City Council discussed the city's water problems, ongoing infrastructure maintenance, purchasing property adjacent to the city's well head, the possibility of installing a new sign at the north entrance to town, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist whose sights are set on Hamburg for a new book.
The major problem with Hamburg's water is due to rust from pipes that are 80 years old.
The pipes being replacing right now next to the car wash on North Street, for example, “are 1938 lines,” said city maintenance supervisor Alan Dovel.
Residents are complaining about brown water. Dovel said that the water has been tested by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently and is fine. But the rust problem, though intermittent, is town-wide.
Said Mayor Cathy Crain, “What we know about any small town is that water is the biggest issue because nobody can afford to modernize their plant and redo all the pipes from the 1930's.”
“We really need to get proactive on this,” said council member Kent Benefiel. “The DNR has checked us out. The plant is giving good water. Out of the ground to the plant is good; from the plant to the water tower is good; inside the water tower is good. But distribution is where the problem is.”
Benefiel explained that ten years ago the city council commissioned a study that examined problems in the city's water distribution, problems still at issue today that would cost six million dollars in infrastructure repair. He believes the best way to proceed is to become partners with a rural water utility such as Southwest Regional Water District of Clarinda, or the public water utility based in Rock Port, Mo.
Crain suggested the council have a meeting with regional water utility companies sometime in November, and the date was tentatively set for Nov. 21.
In other public works matters, Alan Dovel reported that the sewer is discharging the lagoons now.
He and the city crew are replacing 200 feet of two-inch water main on North Street at present. But it really could use seven blocks of new pipe, suggested one council member.

Dovel also reported on well-head protection and that Roberta Brooks is willing to sell property adjacent to the well to the city for $3,000. DNR regulations prohibit any livestock or trash within 300 feet of the well, but the city can't prevent that from happening on private property. A motion to move froward on the purchase passed unanimously.
Benefiel presented the idea of installing a new Hamburg sign at the north entrance to town just like the one that greets people coming into town from the interstate via North Street . The new sign, which would feature LED lights like the existing one, could be powered by a solar collector and would not require the installation of electrical wiring. The sign would cost between 5,500 and 6,500 dollars. Council passed a motion to have Benefiel look into the details of the project.
Dovel also reported that there are roughly a dozen trees and some brush that need to be cleaned off the watershed this fall or in the spring, and that the city will be reimbursed for the cost.
Another important upcoming task is cleaning the six-foot culverts under Rte. 275. They need to be dug out before the ground freezes at the open ends. Council moved to put the job up for bid. It should cost no more than 10,000 dollars and the work will only take a few days.
Crain informed the council that she was contacted by school superintendent Mike Wells about hosting a visit by the retired city planner of Ankeny, Iowa, who Wells met recently.
The city planner is interested in coming to Hamburg for a look around, and Crain set up a Nov. 15 meeting with him.
Crain also reported that author and investigative journalist Penny Loeb is interested in including Hamburg in a new book she is writing. The new book will deal with the flood of 2011 and government financial wastefulness. Loeb, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and for a National Magazine Award in 1993 and 1997, was referred to Hamburg by an Iowa City flood watchdog group. Her previous work includes the book “Moving Mountains,” about West Virginia strip mining, which in 2014 was made into a movie starring Theresa Russell.
In other business, the council reviewed the status of nuisance and abatement complaints, and approved the necessary budgetary transactions.