Work has resumed on the Sen. Terry Brown Amphitheater, a pretty good indicator the effects of the second major flood of the facility were not as severe as the first flood, which filled the grounds with silt and damaged some of its electrical components.
“Aside from some silt removal, the amphitheater didn’t sustain any substantial damage,” City Engineer Kevin Stafford said. “Short-term, it did cause some delays in the electrical repairs from the flood last year, but long-term it hasn’t delayed the project.”
The $3.2 million stage for the amphitheater sits on The Island alongside the Tombigbee River near downtown. The city is using $500,000 in state funding to prepare the facility for limited use, which includes building perimeter fencing on the river side of the site and the brick wall entrance at the north end.
Stafford said work on both of those projects resumed soon after the waters from the President’s Day flooding subsided.
“Even though we’ve had rain since then, it has been a week-long rain. It’s been a day here, a day there,” Stafford said. “The soil there is sandy, plus there’s a natural slope so that’s allowed the water to run off pretty fast.”
As a result, employees from Columbus Fence Co. (perimeter fencing) and Joe Morgan Construction (front wall) have resumed work. Stafford said both companies believe they’ll be able to complete the work by the initial early-July contract deadline.
As for the electrical repairs, Stafford said the estimated cost is likely to be substantially less than initial $138,000 estimate.
“That estimate was to replace everything, kind of a worst-case scenario,” Stafford said. “In reality, as we get ready to do the work, it’s likely the cost of what has to be replaced is probably closer to $40,000.”
City Public Information Officer Joe Dillon said the repair costs will be reimbursed through Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.
“With this situation, where you’re working with FEMA, you need to get estimates that cover all the potential costs,” Dillon said. “It’s much easier to have a repair come in below estimate than have to go back to FEMA and request more funds.”
As for dealing with potential flooding going forward, Stafford said there’s not much that can be done.
“The short answer is aside from raising some of the electrical, there’s not anything that can be done,” Stafford said. “What’s important to remember is that this kind of flooding really doesn’t have a precedent. We’ve had two really unusual floods in the past year, but they still remain the exception.”
Stafford said a future flood would likely not damage the perimeter fencing on the river side.
“It’s brick and steel fencing and the flood water is a current that applies pressure,” he said. “It’s just a rise in the water level. So, if we do have another flood, about the only thing that would need to be done is some cleaning. The fence isn’t likely to be damaged.”
Stafford said the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ estimate of the depth of the river near the site show it is not currently an issue.
“It runs 14 to 26 feet deep there,” Stafford said. “At some point, that part of the river will have to be dredged, but the river depth now isn’t a problem.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.