Drainage: Everyone contributes to it, and everyone is plagued by it.
The problem for the city of Starkville is how to adequately address and fund drainage projects.
During the Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, Mayor Parker Wiseman said the city’s current drainage project master list, a 10-year plan developed by the previous administration, will soon be “millions of dollars” behind if the city doesn’t restructure the way it finances.
The board discussed cost estimates to resolve flooding issues at Carver and Maple Drives, each of which have piping and construction options that vary in price from $175,000 to $800,000.
After a spirited diatribe from Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, whose ward includes Carver Drive, Wiseman said the city will revisit its strategy of finding cost-saving methods and previously unidentified funds for drainage issues.
“We’re seeing more issues related to storm drainage than we’ve seen before,” Wiseman said. “We have much more impervious surface in the city. I think the time has come for us as a city to figure out comprehensively how to address drainage issues. I hope to have a plan ready by the end of the year.”
The long-standing drainage issues at Carver and Maple Drives, both of which are caused by insufficient pipe sizes, are two of 28 projects on the 10-year plan. Even with the lowest option for each, the two projects rank among the five most expensive on the list. The city currently has more than $1 million in drainage projects.
Wiseman said the city soon will have to address another drainage issue involving a failing pipe near the Timbercove subdivision on South Montgomery. Officials expect the cost of the Timbercove project to be comparable to that of Carver and Maple Drives. The city, however, is short of funding for the three projects, let alone the rest of the projects on the list.
Ward 7 Alderman Henry N. Vaughn suggested the city provide construction service to drainage projects to help lower contractor costs. City Engineer Edward Kemp, whose cost estimates for Carver and Maple did not include the use of city services, said using a combo of city services and contracting work is possible, though projects would take longer. He’ll return to the board with adjusted cost estimates that will include use of public service crews.
“That’s what I have been advocating all along,” Perkins said of using city workers. “That’s how we got the J.L. King, formerly Westside Drive, ditch done. We got people on the workforce now that can run the excavators and machinery. When you get these contractors, they look at the city as a deep pocket, having a lot of money. We got to start running this city like we run our household or business — we have to conserve money.”
Perkins, the longest-serving member on the board, said Carver Drive has been neglected in favor of other projects that receive quick motions and are passed without opposition. He even suggested the project has been ignored due to the demographics of the area. (Ward 6 is predominately black). Perkins also questioned the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s involvement with the specs of the ditch, though all flood plains must be certified by the agency.
“It’s ridiculous we have to talk about this year in and year out,” Perkins said.
“The people in Ward 6 deserve some better citywide representation. With your support, we can make this happen,” he directed at Wiseman. “The votes from Ward 6 were the swing votes that put you in office.”