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Flood damage costs start to emerge

Estimates in Flowery Branch alone at $1.4 million

POSTED: May 22, 2013 12:03 a.m.

Flowery Branch officials are estimating $1.4 million in expenses related to Sunday’s historic rainfall, and so far it appears that most of the financial burden is falling on the beleaguered South Hall city.

“It’s been rather astounding how little assistance there is out there for the city,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Among those Andrew has called are the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Everyone has been very helpful, but when it comes down to actually trying to get funding ...” he said, trailing off.

“And it’s just so disappointing, because we were really just beginning to turn a corner here,” Andrew said.

The lone bright spot has been a possible $50,000 grant “for immediate threat and danger” from the state Department of Community Affairs.

“It’s a 23-page application and we would have to match (the grant) dollar for dollar.”

Andrew expressed other frustrations.

“You’d think the state of Georgia would have a temporary bridge somewhere,” he said. “GEMA does not have one, DOT does not have one, the National Guard doesn’t have one.”

The city has tapped into its paving budget of $200,000 for next year for infrastructure repair from the storm.

Finance Director Jeremy Perry has produced a spreadsheet showing expenses, mostly for culverts in the downtown area.

“If we have to go beyond $200,000 for this work, which clearly we will, at this point we’re not sure what direction we’re going to go in terms of the revenue for it,” Andrew said.

Insurance won’t help, either.

“We have insurance on our sewer plant and (public) buildings and cars,” but not for roads, Andrew said.

Flowery Branch caught the brunt of Sunday’s storms, with initial reports indicating 7-plus inches of rain within six hours.

According to the city’s engineering firm, Norcross-based Pond & Co., a National Weather Service gauge and radar data within the Flowery Branch watershed show that 5.46 inches fell between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that amount falls between a 200-year and a 500-year flood, Pond stated in a Monday email to city officials.

Adding to the city’s troubles is the discovery that, because of the flood, 200,000 gallons of sewer spilled into Flowery Branch Creek, which flows through downtown.

Andrew sent a statement Tuesday afternoon about the spill.

“Due to extraordinary flooding ... the Flowery Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant was forced to shut off the pumps accepting untreated water from the sanitary sewer lines into the treatment plant,” he said.

“This decision was made due to the sanitary sewer lines near the plant being inundated with flood waters, causing the system to be overwhelmed with flood waters carrying mud and silt.”

Andrew said the sewer plant, which is off Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and wasn’t affected directly by the flooding, continued to treat water.

However, “new water was not allowed to enter the system” between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.

That caused the sewer spill into Flowery Branch Creek.

“The area of contamination has been marked with signage,” Andrew said.

In addition, “we may put out some lime if we have any odor.”

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division requires the city to notify the public of the incident, he said.

“We are not expecting a fine due to the nature of the flood,” Andrew said.

Sunday’s storm also produced troubles for other communities in West Hall.

Culverts failed on Mud Creek at McEver Road near the Oakwood-Flowery Branch border and Stephens Road near Pipsissewa Drive.

“Both roads are estimated to take 2-3 months at best to repair and reopen,” said Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell, who also serves as the county’s Emergency Management Agency director.

Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown estimated a $400,000 repair on McEver Road.

Brown said he expected to have on Tuesday a cost estimate and schematic design for McEver Road repairs that he would send to the DOT along with a funding request.

“We’ll need to see what is requested, obviously, but we are confident we can help,” said David Spear, DOT spokesman.

“That can be in the form of a monetary grant, access to materials or perhaps some in-kind services.”

Kimbrell said the county was “about 95 percent done with preliminary cost estimates.”

He said he hoped to present firm numbers at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting, which is set for 3 p.m. today at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road.

“We have been in constant contact with GEMA as the event unfolded,” Kimbrell said. “They have offered assistance.”

County officials are putting together a request for a State Declaration of Emergency for Gov. Nathan Deal to review, the chief added.

According to the GEMA website, the threshold for federal assistance in Georgia is more than $13.3 million in uninsured public infrastructure damage.

That includes expenses from debris removal from rights of way, emergency protective measures, damage to public roads and damage to public buildings and vehicles less any insurance coverages.

“In lieu of that, there typically are other (applications) out there, particularly for businesses and even homeowners, ” said Ken Davis, a GEMA spokesman.


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