Remember: government services provided by real people

Bill Graham Platte Rambler The federal government prior to shutdown helped create a feel-good story in Platte County with a happy ending. Does anybody here enjoy a clean, cool drink of water? Some are treating the shutdown as if a tractor was turned off in a farm field, like it’s just machinery turned off for a bit. But government services are real people providing expertise to the public while they try to pay the bills at home. Those services are enjoyed by many. Remember, too, that it’s not a true total shutdown. The military is operating. Airports are open. Members of Congress are yakking as if they are the most essential piece. It’s just that some of those essential workers still on the job don’t know when or if they’ll get paid. The non-essentials are not working and are wondering if they’ve taken a permanent financial setback as a reward for public service. But, since the NFL was not shut down and the Chiefs won on Sunday, little else matters for many citizens, at least for now. Yes, it’s true that not all government operations are necessary immediately. The community of Stillings in rural Platte County certainly didn’t need safe drinking water. They could tote water in with big tanks loaded onto trucks. How many of you truck in your drinking water? Stillings historically was a railroad town immediately across the river from Leavenworth, a few miles south of the current Missouri 92 bridge across the Missouri River. If memory serves me right, long ago there was a roundhouse and stores. The key was a railroad bridge that crossed the Missouri there. Stillings residents used to walk across the bridge into Leavenworth when trains weren’t running. Ditto after the rail service ceased. I remember seeing the bridge in the late 1980s. But the bridge and any evidence of a railroad are long gone now. The last time I was there, Stillings had some town-like blocks and roads lined with some houses. A story last week in The Citizen outlined how KCI Farms now owns much of the property in that area. Water from wells there was good for washing clothes, but not safe to drink by modern standards. According to The Citizen, Platte County Water Supply District No. 3 got help from State Rep. Martin Rucker, who got help from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to provide water service to the area. The Missouri DNR provided a $507,015 grant and also subsidized a $507,015 loan to make a dependable public water supply in Stillings possible. I guess taxpayers helped out one way or another. Regarding the state DNR money, I’d suspect some or all of that funding came originally from federal money given to states to administer. Now this wasn’t free for those turning on the taps. Residents had to pay $4,500 for a water meter and service. But not all families could afford the charge. So, four families received $18,000 from the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program. The people who handled the paperwork are home today wondering when and if their next USDA paycheck will arrive. This isn’t just about a single employee shut out from providing service. Behind each employee are spouses, children and parents. Businesses near their homes count on them as customers for groceries and luxuries. Federal aid long ago laid the groundwork for electrical and water systems that serve many of us now. The Kansas City Water Department provides much of the water that flows in taps in this region, no matter what utility you pay monthly. They are the bulk provider. But the federal US Army Corps of Engineers controls the Missouri River flow that makes Kansas City’s water supply possible. There is an emergency supply. An intake house was built at Smithville Lake for future emergency use. Of course, federal funds built the lake and the Corps manages the project. You can launch a boat at a Clay County park ramp, leased from the Corps, but the federal government is the main provider. It’s harvest time. Maybe a failure of federal farm subsidy checks to be processed or insurance provided for next spring’s crop would make a shutdown in Washington seem more local. But the Web is up and television is broadcasting. Cell phones are ringing. What more could anyone ask for, some ask? Well, for starters we could remember that government services are provided by people for people.