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Flowery Branch delays decision on stormwater utility study
08132018 CULVERT 1.jpg
Pipes span the ditch on Cantrell Road Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, as repairs on the Flowery Branch culvert continue. The culvert failed during heavy rains in June.

Update, Sept. 3: Whether Flowery Branch should study setting up a new utility to address stormwater improvements was postponed by the City Council Thursday, Sept. 3.

Council members said they wanted more information, including how a development impact fee might factor into the issue, before deciding on the issue. An impact fee is an additional charge on developers to help pay for other things that might be affected by a development, such as roads.

The council voted 4-1 to delay the issue to a future work session, without specifying a date. Only Councilman Ed Asbridge was opposed.

With a history of blown culverts in the downtown area due to storms, Flowery Branch is looking at whether it could or should set up a new utility to address stormwater improvements. 

The City Council is set to vote Thursday, Sept. 3, on whether to pay an engineering firm, Clark Patterson Lee, $34,850 for a study on whether the city “would benefit from a stormwater utility to help cover these costs.” 

“How we would do the billing, what the billing would entail, the amounts, what the budget would be and how that would be over time is everything the study would be considering,” City Manager Bill Andrew said Tuesday, Sept. 1. 

“This study will help us understand all of the city’s stormwater needs and the timing of each project, as well as associated costs,” according to a city document about the study. “Performing this study and the possibility of a stormwater utility could assist the city to become more proactive with maintenance and repairs rather than reactive.” 

Flowery Branch City Council 

What: Vote on stormwater utility study 

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 

Where: City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St. 

Downtown Flowery Branch, or what many residents refer to as “Old Town,” sits largely on a hillside, with Gainesville Street serving as the ridgeline. 

“There was never a stormwater system put in that made any sense,” Andrew said. “It was just done with open ditches that didn’t necessarily make sense and weren’t built to the standards that were needed to handle the flow.” 

And heavy rains have brought flooding and damage over the years

In June 2018, the culvert at Cantrell Road Bridge near Victoria Drive washed out after an overnight storm. The collapse didn’t strand any residents, but Cantrell Road serves as a connector between Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 and Thurmon Tanner Parkway.  

The good news was the city had planned anyway to replace the culvert using special purpose local option sales tax money and other funds, with the project costing about $450,000. The city replaced the culvert and reopened the road in October 2018

One of the worst episodes in recent times occurred May 19, 2013, when 7 inches fell overnight, causing havoc throughout Hall County, washing out culverts and flooding offices. 

A culvert on Spring Street in Flowery Branch, repaired after a 2009 collapse, fell again in the 2013 storm — just months after a hydrological study of the Flowery Branch Creek basin was done — and was later replaced with a bridge. 

“What’s happening now is we’re having to fund this pell-mell (of repairs) with sewer money, general fund money … and then the state is asking for more and more criteria to be met, for studies to be done for water quality issues and all that,” Andrew said. “And so, the state is pushing for (local) governments to find a way to (handle stormwater issues) properly.” 

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