Business owners on flooded U.S. 24 look to feds, Independence for solutions

Posted at 6:12 PM, Oct 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-10 19:12:48-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Thelma Jordan pulled up with her family Wednesday to start cleaning out her business, Fairmount Liquors, on U.S. 24. 

It's a route that feels like a broken record any time there's heavy rain.

"I have done this so many times," Jordan said. 

The liquor store is closed for the fourth day after nonstop raining in the metro. 

"Up to my knees," she said. "The water was up to here."

While Jordan can't sell any products until the health department inspects the building's contents, she's still paying her employees. 

That's a $20,000 expense, and it's nothing new. 

"The only thing that saved me this time is that I had the product up and, if that hadn't happened, I probably wouldn't be here," Jordan said.

Every time it rains, Jordan scrambles to get bottles of liquor and cases of beer off the ground as high as possible, because the flooding usually comes up to at least two feet. 

The culprit for the constant flooding is a broken culvert underneath U.S. 24. which means the creek water that runs from Independence across the street into Sugar Creek doesn't flow properly.

For years, the two cities have passed off responsibility for fixing the culvert.

For years, Jordan's talked with officials and the media about her flood-related frustrations. Reporters from 41 Action News have talked to her at least five times, but city officials haven't been as accessible.

After flooding in May, Independence finally agreed to step up and fix the culvert in June.

"Hopefully, (we'll) get that accomplished in a reasonable amount of time," Councilman Mike Huff told 41 Action New at the time. "Hopefully, before the next flood."

Obviously, it didn't happen, but a city spokesperson said the council has met more than a dozen times with Sugar Creek, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the state about this issue. 

"Complex issues sometimes require complex answers and this group is working to address each of them," the city of Independence said Wednesday in a statement. "... We understand and echo the frustrations of our citizens. We want them to know this has not fallen off our plate and is something we continue to work through."

On the Sugar Creek side of U.S. 24, Best Buy Car Company is preparing to relocate Oct. 15 after flooding issues related to the busted culvert opened a sink hole in the parking lot.

Owner Mark Cosgrove said he's lost dozens of cars through the years, so he's glad the Independence City Council approved a rezoning request for the new location at 1210 U.S. 24. 

Jordan wishes the same help would be offered to her. 

"Nobody knows how much hard work this is," she said.

Now, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is getting involved. He met Wednesday with Jordan and the owner of Wet Wash Car Wash next door to hear their frustrations. 

"It's not a multimillion dollar project either," Cleaver said. "It's a small project redirecting water, but it's a big deal to the people who live around here and worship there." 

Full Gospel Assembly Church behind the car wash and surrounding homes also have been susceptible to flooding.

Cleaver said he's pushing for several bills that would send federal money to the state to fix the issue once and for all. 

The Water Resources Development Act, which would implement flood control projects in Kansas City, is being considered in the Senate this week. 

Voters in Missouri also will consider raising the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs during next month's election.

Cleaver's staff is working to figure out if U.S. 24 would be included among any of those projects.

"It's just horrible that this is continuing over the years in such a manner and nobody seems to be able to deal with it," Cleaver said. 

While she waits for bureaucracy's tedious wheels to grind, Jordan said she's teetering on the brink of closing. 

"I'm so close," she said. 

With the Best Buy car lot moving, Sugar Creek expects be able to examine the issue closer, but Mayor Mike Larson did not respond to our request for comment.