Commissioners to discuss flood problems with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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News Journal correspondent
Richland County Commissioner Ed Olson said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid out more than $2 million for public infrastructure repair after the last three flooding events in Richland County.
Olson presented the figure as he announced Thursday that a meeting has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 29 with a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Huntington, W. Va., to discuss flooding issues and options for solutions.
Earlier this month, Olson suggested officials revisit a more than 25-year-old idea to undertake a massive debris removal project to increase the drainage capacity of local Mohican River tributaries to reduce the chance of flooding in Shelby and Bellville after heavy rains. He said the process to have the Corps determine the cost of debris removal, along with dredging to improve the holding capacity of Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill lakes, was requested in 2007, but there was no follow through on funding by area congressional representatives.
Olson said the FEMA reimbursement figure was put together by Emergency Management Agency interim director Keith Markley from local and state records, and did not include any public or private insurance payments for private property and crop damage. Olson said he thinks the federal government would have paid significantly less to improve drainage and water storage than it has paid to reimburse for damage over the last 25 years.
“The significance of any meeting is who has the legal authority to create a solution and who has the ability to pay for it,” Olson said. “The issue we’re proposing to the Corps of Engineers is do they have a solution?” He said one of the easiest solutions, in addition to clearing and dredging, is to get flow easements along the rivers, build retention areas and have cuts in the dikes to divert water and release it back into the river at a controlled rate.
Olson said senators and area congressmen, state senators and representatives, mayors of affected communities, township representatives and the county engineer will be invited to the meeting, which is expected to take place at the Longview Center.
Also Thursday, commissioners voted unanimously to put on the November ballot a request to renew a 1-mill senior services levy that was first approved in 2008. If renewed, the measure will raise $1.9 million per year to provide a variety of senior services, including information and referral, transportation, home-delivered meals, minor home repair, personal care and other services to help keep people in their homes. Less than 5 percent of the money is used for administrative costs.
Commissioners’ president Tim Wert said he received a telephone call from a retired resident who was concerned that while various county service levies do not cost a lot individually, added together they are a burden on seniors who are living on fixed incomes. Olson said senior home services such as Passport are less expensive than nursing home care.
“As a federal and state government, we were loosely aware that we have a lot of baby boomers, but not a lot of people 30 to 35 years ago considered what would happen to those baby boomers when they retire,” Olson said. “Because of the size of this aging population, we as a community and as a nation need to be thinking of what’s the demand for services and what’s the most cost-effective way of providing them.”
In other business, commissioners did not approve a resolution of support to put 133 acres of farmland southeast of Shelby into the state’s Agricultural Easement Purchase program to protect it from future commercial development. Olson voted for the resolution, Commissioner Gary Utt voted against it and Wert abstained.
Wert said he abstained to avoid the appearance of a conflict because he has an interest in a similar situation involving an estate. Utt said he voted against the resolution because of concerns that such easements are in perpetuity and could hinder economic development.
Olson said state officials told him the easement probably would be approved without the resolution.