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Big help arrives for Ravinia

RAVINIA -- This small town just got a big boost.

Plagued by sewer problems and facing a shortage of city funds and tax revenue, Ravinia was in trouble last week. Its sewer system was down for five days, and the repairs were a daunting task.

There was, according to Mayor Linda Bambas, a very real question as to whether Ravinia could survive.

But a temporary fix got the sewer system working around 9 p.m. on June 19. And on Tuesday, officials from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Surface Water Quality Division, which deals with wastewater issues, plus USDA Rural Development, the Planning and Development District III and Midwest Assistance, a private nonprofit agency that assists small towns with water-related problems, showed up to offer help.

Bambas said it appears Ravinia will get a new storm sewer, paid for by federal grant money.

"We're very thankful for that," she said. "The city doesn't have any money, so this helps."

Ravinia is a tiny town in Charles Mix County with a population of about 83, Bambas said. The city has little money in the bank, no businesses and a small tax base.

The meeting was held in Bambas' home, since the town office is too small and unequipped for such a gathering. She said she wasn't sure how many officials attended or what agencies they represented.

She was just glad for the offer of assistance, Bambas said.

Raising money seemed hopeless. When the sewer system failed after the record rains two weeks ago, there was doubt over how it could be repaired. The first problem was getting floodwater out of town and, thanks to help from the Charles Mix County Emergency Management office and a Corps of Engineers pump, that was accomplished June 18.

Two service workers from Dakota Pump Inc. of Mitchell arrived in Ravinia Saturday to examine the sewer system and a failed lift station. Bambas said by using a patched-up old pump teamed with a new motor, they were able to get the system operational late Saturday night.

That bill will also be paid for by grant money, Bambas said.

New pumps have been ordered, but the plan is to give the small town a new storm sewer, she said.

It should be installed in 2011, Bambas said. Until then, Ravinia will limp by with its old system and hope for the best, she said.

"Time will tell, I guess," Bambas said.