WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk Residents Seek Street Answers

May 26, 2015

Some Keokuk residents who live near one of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River are still waiting for a scenic road in front of their homes to reopen.  They are also waiting for the city to explain why it's taking so long to make that happen.

Fulton Street runs northwest to southeast.  At its most southeastern point, the street provides a clear view of Lock & Dam 19 and the nearby powerhouse. The road eventually becomes N. Second Street and proceeds downhill to Main Street.

But the most scenic two-block stretch has been closed for months following a hill slide that caused part of the street to collapse and be swept away. Large concrete barriers were installed to prevent vehicles from using the road.

A group of neighbors attended last Thursday's Keokuk City Council workshop to find out how long the barriers would remain.  After the meeting, they seemed pleased that their collective voice was heard.

"Before it had been private calls to the council (members), to the mayor, and to the public works director's office," said Mike Dunn.  "What we have done now is publicly telling all the city that there is a problem here and it needs the attention of the (city) council as a whole."

Dunn, who lives at 327 N. 2nd Street, spoke on behalf of the neighbors.  He said they came forward because they had seen no progress on repairing the street or even in planning to repair it.

Mayor Tom Marion told the group the delay is due to money -- specifically that Keokuk cannot afford to stabilize the hill and repair the street.  He said the hillside does not belong to the city so it does not qualify for state or federal disaster relief following the excessive rain.

Mayor Tom Marion pledges better communication about the project.
Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

Marion said he had instructed Keokuk's new city attorney to try to determine who owns the land in question so the city can request help in paying for the stabilization.  He also pledged to give an update to one of the neighbors each week so the group can keep up with the happenings.

There was one point of contention during what was overall a civil discussion.

Dunn hinted during his presentation that the cause of the hill slide was a combination of heavy rainfall and the city failing to keep a sewer grate clear of debris, leading to additional erosion.

Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion took issue with that claim.

"That grate had been flushed by our department after every heavy rainfall," said Marion.  "It’s interesting that at the same time that that slide took place, the one took place at Rand Park.  So in reality, we feel it was the weather itself that caused those slides.”

One of the neighbors in the audience eventually said it's not about casting blame, it's about improving communication and getting the road opened, a point on which all parties seemed to agree.