Progress seen on Mill Creek Dam Project

Suzette Lowe
Buchannon mayor Robbie Skinner (left) presents Mayor Carolyn Rader with a Ripley Fourth of July fireworks photo. Councilman John McGinley (right) gifts Skinner with a print by former mayor and artist Willa McGinley, along with a commemorate Ripley pen.

After expressing frustration with the lack of progress on the Mill Creek dam, Ripley City Council was pleased to hear that the situation has changed.

The low head dam which helped hold water for the water plant began failing in 2019. A USDA grant was secured to construct a new dam directly downstream from the original.

At the Aug. 5 meeting, council members Carolyn Waybright, Danny Martin, Rick Buckley, John McGinley, Bryan Thompson, and City Reporter David Casto received an update from Jim Mitchem, Ripley’s chief water operator, and Dick Smailes, owner of FAMCO, the contractor awarded the job.

Mitchem reported that ‘great progress’ had been made on the dam since the last council meeting. He said that forty feet of concrete is ready to pour, with more ready in the next week.

When asked what caused the delays in the last few months, Smailes said it all boiled down to communication.

“Quite frankly, I trusted that the engineering firm and Jim were being kept up to date on everything,” he said. “Obviously I was wrong, and I apologize for that. Since our people will be working six days a week, we should be able to meet the August 28 substantial completion date.”

Elaini Brick from Thrasher Group explained that some delays were caused by unforeseen issues.

“We had to go back to the USDA to request more funds,” she said. “They don’t often grant more money but they did this time. This project will be 100 percent grant funded. Also, communication has improved drastically as well.”

A request to lease a small portion of city-owned property on Lakeview Terrace was the topic of lengthy discussion.

Lois Wallace, whose access to the back of her property is part of the land in question, expressed her strong concern if this lease is granted. Council discussed several options including adding a clause in any lease guaranteeing access to the Wallace property or not approving the lease at all.

City Attorney Kevin Harris explained the process of leasing which includes placing a Class I legal advertisement in the paper announcing a public hearing on the matter. It was determined that council members needed more time to research the topic before any public meeting can occur.

Earlier in the meeting, Buckannon mayor, Robbie Skinner, presented a framed photograph he had taken of Ripley’s 4th of July fireworks.

Skinner, who is a photographer, recently donated several framed pictures to be sold with all profits going to help Buckhannon businesses. He said a lot of Ripley people bought many of those photos.

“Buckhannon and Ripley are twin cities,” Skinner said. “We have the same values, patriotism and caring for our citizens and businesses. I can’t thank you enough for supporting my town.”

Another piece of good news was delivered by Todd and Cheryl McCoy. A large digital billboard will be placed on the vacant lot next to Custom Detail. Spots will be sold to local businesses for marketing purposes.

“We will be allocating one free slot for city announcements,” McCoy said. “On Veterans Day, our advertisers have agreed to give up their spots to honor veterans being represented in the parade. We hope that Ripley will utilize this tool as much as Buckhannon is right now.”

In other business, council:

• Learned cameras will be installed at the water plan on Aug. 1

• Learned light poles have been installed on South Court Street and will be functional once AEP hooks up the electric

• Learned the public hearing for the minor boundary adjustment on the land by Walmart will be Aug. 12

• Learned progress is being made at the RC park at Ripley City Park

• Approved the retirement of Greg Bowers effective Sept. 4

• Approved the mayor moving forward on guidelines for citizens to rent city dumpsters

• Set Aug. 30 as the possible pool closing date

The next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the Municipal Building.