Residents want city to improve drainage

Published 10:56 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Contributing Editor

With a little luck, residents of the Smallwood subdivision in Washington may see their drainage problems after substantial rains solved sooner than later.
A group of Smallwood residents attended the City Council’s meeting Monday to complain about flooding that occurs in their neighborhood after heavy rains such as those earlier this month. Residents told of floodwaters damaging central air-conditioning/heat-pump units, duct work, garages and yards. At least one car was “flooded,” residents said. They also told of people kayaking in deep water on Rowan Place.
The group made similar complaints to the council May 15, 2006, adding they had received “no relief” since then. On Monday, the residents made it clear they want action instead of words this time around.
They could see action in the coming months.
Earlier this year, the council adopted a capital-projects ordinance to allocate funds for stormwater drainage projects in the city. The city is preparing to spend nearly $4 million on such improvements in the Jack’s Creek basin.
To pay for the projects, the city is looking at using $4 million of the nearly $6 million in Economic Recovery Zone Bond capacity awarded to the city by the N.C. Department of Commerce. Of the $4 million the city is looking at spending, $42,000 would be used to replace the roof at the city’s headquarters fire station at the corner of North Market and Fifth streets.
If bids on the proposed improvements in the Jack’s Creek basin come in lower than expected, that could mean some of the $4 million could be used to address drainage problems in Smallwood, city officials said Monday. The city also may be able to use part of the remaining $2 million in Economic Recovery Zone Bond capacity to pay for drainage improvements in Smallwood.
A combination of both scenarios may be possible, according to Matt Rauschenbach, the city’s finance officer and assistant city manager.
The Smallwood residents told the council they want some of the Economic Recovery Zone Bond revenue spent on fixing drainage problems in their neighborhood.
Terry Sawyer, who lives at 301 Northwood Road, told the council he wants drainage improvements made where he lives.
“We don’t need environmental drainage. We need emergency drainage,” Sawyer said.
His remark about environmental drainage may have been a reference to an engineering study — made about nine years ago — that about $12 million in projects that would help alleviate the city’s drainage problem in the Jack’s Creek basin.
Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, explained why the Jack’s Creek basin, which carries away much of the stormwater runoff in the city, is in first in line for drainage improvements.
“Whenever you do drainage work, you start at the bottom and work your way up,” said Lewis, adding that doing otherwise creates more drainage-related problems.
“I’m tired of it,” Sawyer about the drainage problems.
“We know there’s a problem. We feel for you,” Mayor Archie Jennings told the residents, adding that addressing the drainage issues in Smallwood — and elsewhere in the city — is “a money problem.”
Jennings told the Smallwood residents the city is concerned about their drainage problems.
“Yours are among the highest in priorities,” he said.
Jennings said the city must “go the extra mile and give these folks some relief.”