New Holland resident Juanita Merck worries how she will get her bedridden 96-year-old mother to safety if it floods again in Milliken Mill Village.
The village is behind New Holland Elementary School and below some doctor offices in Gainesville. A failing 100-year-old stormwater management system and water runoff from the city development has caused sinkholes and property damage, residents said.
James Gilmer has lived on Mill Street in Milliken Mill Village since 1957. He loves the neighborhood, judging by the intimate way he knows all of its nooks and crannies and all of the people he can identify by name. His yard has several sinkholes, lined with small red flags to prevent people from falling in.
The neighborhood has seen about four floods since the beginning of the year. His wife, Jan, had her car flooded in an earlier flood, water rising to the floorboards. Last month, water reached his truck’s running boards.
The water goes under the houses, causing problems. The neighbor’s dog recently fell into a large sinkhole on the Gilmer property.
Jan Gilmer said her husband is a Vietnam veteran who is having serious medical issues because of his service. She took early retirement to care for him.
“My husband came back from Vietnam and he had a sack full of lemons handed to him,” Jan Gilmer said. “He’s devoted his adult life to helping the community, this community, helping veterans in this community, paying his taxes, being a model citizen.
“And now here we are, retirement and we can sit on our front porch and enjoy ourselves, but we can’t let the dog out in the yard, we can’t let all the beautiful little grandchildren, when they come visit Nanny and Poppa, we can’t let them out there because they’re 3 and 4 and 5 years old.”
The village is in the county, but is surrounded by city property. In the mid 1950s, Milliken and Co. dedicated the roads to the county and the water and sewer systems to the city. Ken Rearden, Hall County Public Works director, said there’s no record of the company dedicating the stormwater system.
The Gilmers said the county inherited the land from Milliken and is responsible for the stormwater management system. The houses were sold to homeowners.
Geoffrey Archibald’s house on Mill Street was burned in an electrical fire in January. He’s spent $176,000 to rebuilt the house, but he has about five sinkholes in on his property, which he said he didn’t know about before he started rebuilding.
The Millken Mill has a large retaining pond that holds much of the stormwater runoff, he said. He said he’s contacted Gainesville and Hall County.
The Board of Commissioners discussed the problem at its Tuesday work session. Commissioners considered paying for the fixes, along with what liability the city and homeowners may have.
“It’s a pretty serious problem,” Archibald said.
Merck’s car, parked next to her mother’s home on Myrtle Street, was also flooded and a total loss. The water covered the seats, she said. She also blames the county for the stormwater system.
“The water was like a river in my yard right here,” Merck said.