Rising Levee Tax in Union and Alexander Counties?
WSIL -- Leaders in Union and Alexander counties say they need more money to repair an aging levee system.
The sections in question run from where the Mississippi and Big Muddy Rivers connect south to Gale in Alexander County and back up north from Gale to Wolf Lake. Many of the levee commissioners are trying to convince judges in both counties to approve a tax hike to cover the work.
Residents already pay a levee tax. It covers basic upkeep like mowing and small repairs. But levee commissioners say they need more than a million dollars to overhaul weakening pipelines inside.
Under the measure, homeowners would see a $16 increase, the levee tax on commercial lots would more than double, and farmers would pay $7 an acre.
There are 17 pipes that need to be relined and four that need to be closed along a section of the Mississippi River.
Mitchel McLane is the Clear Creek Levee Commissioner. He says the levee system protects more than 50,000 acres in the floodplain.
"The rain water, if we didn't have them, it would just fill up in here like a bath tub," he explains.
As a farmer himself, McLane knows he and other ag producers will feel the brunt of this tax increase.
"When tax time comes around, it's going to hurt. It's going to increase our property tax bills considerably, but I also know what it looks like when a levee breaks. You can lose an entire farm and never get it back if it breaks in the wrong place," he says.
The pipe work in levees like these have a life expectancy of about 50 years. McLane explains that if the levees don't pass inspection by the Army Corps of Engineers and do break, FEMA will not help with the repairs.
"We're going to have to take care of ourselves. The days of waiting for the government to take care of it are gone," he says.
Levee commissioners say they're trying to avoid a situation like what happened in Grand Tower. A pipe in the levee there collapsed leaving the community to foot the nearly $2 million repair bill.
The project in Alexander and Union counties is projected to cost $1.2 million.
A hearing on the proposed tax hike is set for Wednesday in Union County. A date has not yet been set to take the issue before a judge in Alexander County.
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