You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
top story
City’s aging water mains, hydrants being replaced

A recent break in a large Midtown water main points to the uncertainty of patrolling the idiosyncrasies of an aging civic infrastructure.

Missouri American Water crews responded to the area of 22nd and Charles streets June 16 to begin repairs to a broken 18-inch main. Officials say the main is among the oldest in St. Joseph, a group of pipes that badly need replacing to avoid future incidents.

Jody Carlson, the utility’s senior manager for field services and production northwest operations, indicated it’s an impossibility to determine the most problematic pipes in highest need of replacement. But Missouri American still operates on a three- to-five-year plan that strives to replace old pipe wherever it may happen to be located in the city.

“That’s why we’re doing the investment,” Carlson said. “We would like to replace about 1 percent of the water mains each year,” he added. “Roughly, we’ve got 600 miles of main in St. Joseph.”

For 2019, Missouri American intends to spend about $5 million on water main replacements. Carlson said the replacements occur based on such varying factors as location and type of ground. The breaks can happen anywhere.

“We’re not necessarily targeting location, except where we have a higher degree of main breaks,” he said. “There are certain fluctuations in weather that cause damage.”

A weather pattern that features a drying-out period following rains can impact the relative condition of mains. Carlson said settling of the earth can contribute to fissures, and the clay soils common to Northwest Missouri also can result in ground shifts that move the pipes.

It’s typical for St. Joseph to have several water main breaks of different sizes per week. Carlson said a break such as the one on June 16 translates into a “small” revenue loss.

“Nationally, we are probably in the average of main breaks per mile,” he said, adding St. Louis has the highest number of water main breaks per mile in Missouri.

Outdated fire hydrants, some that date as far back as 1919, also come in for attention by the water company. Planning calls for replacing 150 hydrants this year, an increase of 50 over last year’s pace and a match with 2017. The hydrant replacement program is balanced with increasing the flow of fire protection along with growth in St. Joseph that includes new subdivisions. According to Carlson, the goal is to first replace the oldest hydrants in the city up to the 1940s and 1950s.

Flooding has not caused the water service issues in St. Joseph as it has elsewhere. Missouri American’s well field near Amazonia, Missouri, has not been threatened. The location of the utility’s main plant north of St. Joseph on a bluff further ensures protection of the supply. Carlson said the city depends on a system of wells and groundwater instead of the Missouri River.

Filters at the plant have been replaced over the past few years, at costs of $70,000 to $75,000 apiece. A $300,000 capital investment is being made this year into a lime softening program.

Sinkholes have not been a problem for the utility, although the city has recently addressed the issue at several locations on the North End. Keven Schneider, the city’s superintendent of streets and sewers, said the latest sinkholes were discovered in alleys and were being reviewed for potential damage to sewers.

top story
Luetkemeyer launches into Legislature

Tony Luetkemeyer’s first session as state senator saw the Republican dive into the legislative process, sponsoring more than a dozen bills and securing deals on several other measures.

The 35-year-old attorney is serving in his freshman year of a four-year term in the Missouri General Assembly’s upper chamber, representing both Buchanan and Platte counties in the Senate.

Two of Luetkemeyer’s bills made it to the finish line, a bill that modifies aspects of the discovery phase of the legal process, as well as a measure that will ask voters to decide whether to apply term limits to all of Missouri’s six statewide-elected officials.

When asked by News-Press NOW what he was surprised by following his first session as an elected official, Luetkemeyer said he was encouraged by the camaraderie.

“It’s funny, in today’s political environment, you hear about all of this hyper-partisanship, where nobody gets along,” he said. “One of the things that I found out, and I thought was very refreshing, was that actually people do get along pretty well in Jefferson City.”

“Whether it’s other Democrats or fellow Republicans, people work really well together,” Luetkemeyer said of his colleagues. “We certainly have those issues that we disagree on, but we’re able to get along, get things done and move the state forward.”

He said the local lawmaking delegation is especially team-oriented.

“There’s a real team environment right now with the Northwest Missouri legislative delegation,” said Luetkemeyer. “We worked on a lot of pieces of legislation together.”

Luetkemeyer, whose Senate district encompasses both Buchanan and Platte counties, said him and fellow Senator Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, were able to partner with the three representatives from St. Joseph — State Reps. Bill Falkner, Sheila Solon and Brenda Sheilds — to advance legislation with local appeal. Specifically, Luetkemeyer said the all-Republican delegation came together on the St. Joseph Land Bank LLC registration and teacher externships.

The freshman GOP senator tallied up other legislative wins passed by the General Assembly, including measures relating flood relief, workforce development and education funding.

“We fully funded the foundation formula, which funds K-12 education,” Luetkemeyer said, “and gave a core increase to all the four-year universities and colleges in Missouri.”

Both Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University saw increased appropriations of roughly $1 million each. Additionally, Luetkemeyer touted a $550,000 state-funded grant to Missouri Western’s nursing program.

top story
Volunteer in need of some help of his own

Aaron Armstrong has made a mission out of helping other people. Now the St. Joseph man finds himself in need of help.

Two years ago, Armstrong formed the Missing and Endangered Northwest Missouri and Surrounding Area group and started a Facebook page to help families find missing children and relatives.

But after suffering a spinal injury earlier this year, Armstrong lost his job. To add insult to injury, he purchased a car that turned out out be a lemon.

As a result of these misfortunes, the bills are piling up and he is going to have to move a smaller house to try and save money. Thursday morning found Armstrong sitting teary-eyed in his sparsely furnished Deer Park home with his four cats.

“I’ve never been one to ask for help. I’ve always done for other people so here I am in this position and I just don’t know what to do,“ Armstrong said while fighting back tears.

Linda Landes, one of Armstrong’s friends, described him as a caring, thoughtful person.

“He is very passionate about helping people, and this day and age having qualities like that is almost unheard of. Aaron is a great guy and I am blessed to know him,” she said.

Armstrong’s Missing and Endangered Northwest Missouri and Surrounding Area group has grown in two years from about 400 online members to close to 8,200. The group has expanded its services into the Iowa area and assists law enforcement in a number of communities with flyers and other services to help locate missing people.

“We get calls nationwide with people wanting help with flyers. We have many detectives across the state contact us and say ‘Hey can you help us with flyers?’ As you know law enforcement gets tied up in other crimes and get quite busy,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the group has added another mission, called “Each One Reach One.” The new endeavor is to help deal with the homeless and crime problems in the city. The group also sponsors a page supporting Native Americans, he added

“We’ve come a long ways in a couple of years through the help of great team members,” Armstrong said.

The groups’ first case two years ago involved locating a missing Savannah, Missouri, girl. That prompted him and his friend Tracy Wilson to begin the Facebook group.

“After that, other families started coming to us for assistance,” he said.

The group not only makes flyers and videos but also visits with families and offers support. Currently the group is trying to attain not-for-profit status.

Armstrong said other local members have stepped up since he’s had his injury.

“If you figure all of our branches we’re up to 30 team members now and they’re all like family,” he said.

Armstrong is somewhat saddened and bitter about losing his job after 10 years over his injury, however.

“”I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into my job,” Armstrong said. “That’s a pretty hard pill to swallow.”

For more information or to help Armstrong, call 816-646-9067.

Yemeni rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Pompeo visit

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in Saudi Arabia Sunday evening, the Saudi military said, as the U.S. secretary of state was on his way to the country for talks on Iran.

Regional tensions have flared in recent days. The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone on Thursday.

The Trump administration has combined a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday.

The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha. Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis in Yemen for more than four years.

A Houthi spokesman, Yahia al-Sarie, said earlier Sunday the rebels had launched drones targeting Saudi airports in the southern cities of Abha and Jizan.

Saudi Arabia’s military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki did not say what type of weapon was used in Sunday’s attack, which took place shortly after 9 p.m. local time. The Saudi Press Agency reported that a Syrian resident of Saudi Arabia had been killed, but did not identify the nationalities of those wounded.

It was the second attack in less than two weeks on Abha’s airport. The Houthis launched a cruise missile at the airport on June 12, wounding 26 passengers inside. The Iranian-backed Houthis also claimed responsibility for bomb-laden drone strikes that targeted a key Saudi oil pipeline in recent weeks.

Also Sunday, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks on Iran. His meetings in Saudi Arabia will be in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, about 315 miles north of where the Saudi airport was struck.

Speaking to reporters before flying out, he said he’ll be talking to the two U.S. allies “about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned” and how to build a global coalition to “push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

At the same time, Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. was prepared to negotiate with Iran to ease tensions.

“We’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions. They know precisely how to find us,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton was in Jerusalem on Sunday, where he said Iran should not “mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness.” President Donald Trump has said he backed away from planned strikes after learning 150 people would be killed.

Bolton’s tough message seemed to be aimed not only at Tehran, but also at reassuring key U.S. allies that the White House remains committed to maintaining pressure on Iran. Israel, along with Arab countries in the Gulf, considers Iran to be their greatest threat, and Trump’s last-minute about face appears to have raised questions about U.S. willingness to use force against the Islamic


On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States’ “interventionist military presence” for fanning the flames. He was quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

Bolton, a longtime Iran hawk, emphasized that the U.S. reserved the right to attack at a later point.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. As President Trump said on Friday our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go,” Bolton said alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself a vocal critic of Iran over the years.

Netanyahu, a longtime opponent of the nuclear deal, has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the current crisis between the U.S. and Iran. The Israeli leader appears to be wary of being seen as pushing the U.S. into a new Middle Eastern military conflict.

Standing alongside Bolton, Netanyahu said Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region had increased as a result of the nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for set limits on its uranium enrichment levels.

Netanyahu made no mention of the called-off airstrike and said he was “pleased” by U.S. plans for increased economic pressure. But some Israeli commentators said that Trump’s about-face was a cause for concern.

Iran’s foreign minister said Bolton was trying to force the U.S. into a conflict with Iran. Javad Zarif tweeted that the presidential adviser was “moments away from trapping” Trump into a “war,” before the U.S. president called off the strikes against Iran.

America’s European allies have expressed deep concern about the volatile standoff. A top British diplomat was in Tehran on Sunday to discuss preventing any “escalation and miscalculation,” according to the UK Foreign Office.

The two-day visit of Andrew Murrison, the UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, was aimed at “open, frank and constructive engagement” with his Iranian counterparts, according to the Foreign Office. This included reiterating the UK’s assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Iran denies.

Murrison added that Iran must continue to meet its commitments under the nuclear deal.

Iran has threatened to break the limits set on its uranium stockpile by the deal in the coming days, if European powers don’t find a way to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

According to IRNA, Iranian officials told Murrision they hoped that European signatories to the nuclear deal will pursue “normal relations and trade” despite the sanctions.

Also Sunday, a top Iranian military commander warned that any conflict with Iran would have uncontrollable consequences across the region and endanger the lives of U.S. forces. Maj. Gen. Gholamali Rashid’s remarks, published by the semi-official Fars news agency, were made while addressing Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps during a field visit to a command center for Iranian radars and missile systems.

Throughout the recent crisis, Trump has wavered between bellicose language and actions toward Iran and a more accommodating tone. His administration is aiming to cripple Iran’s economy and force policy changes by re-imposing sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports.

He’s also dangled the prospect of eventually becoming an unlikely “best friend” of America’s longtime Middle Eastern adversary.

The regional tensions have prompted major international carriers, including Saudi Arabia’s state airline Saudia, to divert flight routes away from the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday barred U.S.-registered aircraft from operating over parts of the Persian Gulf.



R-Buchanan, Platte Counties