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Lake Whetsel renovation plan approved

At its March 29 meeting, the O’Fallon City Council approved a resolution that authorizes a contract with JTL Landscaping LLC for construction services for the Lake Whetsel Improvement Project, with a total cost not to exceed $1,084,401.18.  The lake requires renovation due to the accumulation of silt that has made the lake too shallow to be managed.

Lake Whetsel [City of O’Fallon graphic]

In a supporting memorandum, Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Springer clarified the financial aspects of the project.

The approved 2019 city budget includes $800,000 for to be utilized for this project, plus $200,000 to be used for asphalt resurfacing work, for a total of $1,000,000.  The recommended work will encumber costs for a total of $1,084,401.18, making the cost $84,402.28 more than budgeted.

Springer indicated a mid-year budget adjustment would be submitted for approval that would allow the transferring of $150,000 from park reserve funds to cover the cost overage plus a 6 percent contingency amount of $65,599 for unforeseen items. The resolution as approved on March 28 does not include that transfer.

Letters already have been sent to neighbors of the park, and as a result, construction is to begin immediately.

The renovation process will include digging to the bottom of the lake to allow for the creation of three deeper sections for fish habitats. Other items include installing a fountain and aeration system to promote aquatic plant and wildlife growth, installing sidewalks around the lake in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act access requirements and installing a boardwalk area with scenic rock outcroppings.

The plan includes a “fish salvage” through May 8. During that time period, a pump will be used to drain the lake. During the drainage, anyone with a valid fishing license will be allowed to come in and remove fish without following typical fishing regulations. Signage has been placed to clarify the rules, including no motorized equipment. The public is expected to use fishing poles, nets, and non-motorized boats to get to the fish. The hours will run from dawn to dusk. The O’Fallon Police Department has been notified about this special event, in order to help monitor and control the anticipated traffic and numbers of people salvaging fish. All other park rules still apply.

To help avoid the recurrence of silt going forward, permanent ditch-checks will also be placed in tributaries upstream from the lake. The permanent ditch-checks will be monitored regularly by city staff and cleaned out as necessary to avoid silting. Temporary ditch-checks will be placed as part of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan while the renovation is in progress.

Lake Whetsel is a 3.5-acre lake that was created in the 1970s by the damming a stream. It is located within the 48-acre Fort Zumwalt Park, which is located off Veterans Memorial Parkway near its intersection with Woodlawn Avenue.

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