Columbia aldermen strengthen road closure ordinance

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Columbia Board of Aldermen on Oct. 1 strengthened the town’s Emergency Roads Closure and Traffic Control ordinances.

When conditions warrant prohibiting or regulating travel on certain streets, town employees may barricade the closed streets.

“In the event barricades are erected,” the amendment reads, “no person shall drive any vehicle or animal past, around or over any barricade lawfully placed upon any street by town officials, employees or agents, which street has been closed by such barricades, except by consent of persons authorized to give such consent.”

A person authorized to give consent to drive past a barricade could be a deputy sheriff or town official directing traffic, town attorney Will Crowe explained in presenting the amendment.

This new legislation makes it a crime to drive beyond a barricade. Its aim is to eliminate damage to private property that results when vehicles moving along a flooded street create a wake that forces water into a parked vehicle, house or auxiliary building close by.

Alderman Hal Fleming moved the adoption of the amendment, and his motion carried unanimously.

Careless individuals driving vehicles on flooded streets in Columbia have unnecessarily anguished some residents and damaged their property, Mayor pro tem Sandra Owens stated. She gave the example of a widow in tears after a truck’s wake recently washed floodwater into her living room, for the third time.

Columbia had 29 streets showing some water “blockage” following Hurricane Florence, Rhett White, town manager, reported. He said the town owns eight barricades and needs more.

He also reported that several houses sustained damage to crawl-space ductwork, that 29 dwelling houses were susceptible to water intrusion onto the lowest floor, but that he had received no reports of water actually entering any living space.

The normal time for reading water meters came during the hurricane period, so bills for the past several months were averaged and users charged accordingly, White reported, resulting in some being more and others less than in August. All this will right itself with the October meter reading and subsequent billing, he promised.

In addition, the late-payment penalty was waived for three days following the hurricane, White said.

There were no sewer line overflows or water line breaks during the weather event, he said.