The New Holland Community (Milliken Mill Village) is the home of many senior citizens and families with young children who love their quiet, historic community. The village is over 100 years old, and many people in Hall County have recent and past connections to the mill and its village.
Stormwater runoff from recent heavy rains has exacerbated a problem that has been gradually worsening over the last several decades and has now reached a dangerous, unhealthy and eventually tragic condition.
The stormwater originally was controlled by a system of curbs, culverts, underground piping and contoured surface runoff areas. Every component of that system is now failing to some degree because it has been virtually unmaintained since it was turned over to the county decades ago. The worst of these, by far, is the old terra cotta underground piping which has formed leaks and blockages, and no longer works at all.
Leaks have allowed stormwater to erode underground paths outside the piping and, as it eats its way downhill, it creates sinkholes dangerous to life and property. There are at least 10 such sinkholes along the route of the underground piping. One dog has already been rescued and residents are worried the next rescue effort will be for a child or senior citizen, or one of the homes crumbling into the abyss.
Blockages have caused the stormwater to run on the surface, destroying fences, flooding basements and crawl spaces, out-buildings and cars. A strong storm can create a fast-moving river of water nearly a foot deep with a powerful potential for destruction.
Village citizens have pleaded to the county to fix the problem, but it has taken a position that doesn’t make logical sense. Back around the 1950s, the county accepted responsibility for maintenance of the streets, curbs, culverts and about 5 feet of the 10-foot pipe extending through the roadway easement from the culverts. Public Works Director Ken Rearden says there is no record of the county formally accepting the underground pipes beyond the easement, though the pipes have always been connected to the culverts.
The curbs, culverts and pipes are an integral system linked by function. One doesn’t work without the other; there is no place for the culverts to direct stormwater runoff except through the pipes. It is beyond common sense to think the underground piping was not implicitly accepted by the county, along with parts of the system that fill them with water.
Where did they think the water was going to go? This whole affair could begin to sound like the start of a TV sitcom script if the implications weren’t so tragic.
District Commissioner Stowe and County Engineer McInturff have been helpful in trying to explain the situation to the Villagers and present it to commissioners and other county personnel. They have not been successful in getting any action even with the problem getting worse and more dangerous every day. What is our government for if not to help?
It is not the time to hide behind thinly veiled legal arguments; it is time to act. Please fix the problem now.