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Grant survey begins

By Staff
Solution may be marriage of several suggestions
By Connie Nowlin
Managing editor
About 50 members of the public, concerned with the drainage problems and solutions in Atmore, attended a public hearing on the topic at City Hall.
The meeting, in response to a grant awarded the city to alleviate the back up of storm water, was held Thursday and featured several members of the resource management team that will oversee the project.
"Water problems are not something new in the city," said Mayor Howard Shell. "Atmore cannot solve all of them, but we worked hard to get this $1.2 million appropriation to address the problem."
Shell said a lot of studies and engineering had to be done before work began. The Natural Resource Conservation Commission, a department of the United States Department of Agriculture, is helping with the engineering and survey.
According to Mason Dollar, the program manager and facilitator for the local meeting, some 85 properties inside targeted problem areas have sustained damage from water. That area includes part of Pine Street and also the Briar Lake area.
Also in attendance was Gary Jones, an economist for the NRCC.
"These are your tax dollars we are spending," Jones said. "We have to make sure the benefits exceed the costs of the project."
Being able to keep a garden would be a benefit to Sterling Fancher. He said he has lost two vegetable gardens at his McRae Street home in the past year, one in November and one in May.
He believes larger culverts along the street would help alleviate the problem.
However, just adding to the storm drain system will not help, said Curtis Harris, who lives at Brushy Creek, if the system is not kept up.
"You can create all the solutions you want," Harris said. "But if you don't maintain them, they won't work."
He said the ditches near his home were blocked with trees and other debris.
Some people had voiced opposition to the planned project, even though the scope of the work has yet to be decided.
Some of the proposed solutions include improved storm drain systems, developing wetlands in agricultural areas to slow the run off of storm water, or an excavated holding area for the excess water. Those in opposition were mainly from Florida, and did not want the creek simply channelized.
"Their main concern was the only option was channelization," said Detra Boutwell, district conservationist with the NRCS for Escambia County, Ala.
"But we are looking at all the options, not just channelization," she said.
This meeting was to hear concerns from citizens and find out if there were other properties that had flooding that was unknown to the engineers doing the survey.