As we approach the peak months of hurricane season, August through September, the efforts to address the blocked drainage systems could be too little, too late.
Public Works Director Bobby Marr pushed for the city council to expand the maintenance division, which decreased because of the recession of 2008-2009.
The workload and small staff have become apparent in St. Marys, city council now debating the best strategy to fill the gaps with either contractors or a larger workforce.
Some Councilmembers stated that using contract workers is a better use of tax dollars during high mowing seasons. Other councilmembers on the panel believe there is enough work in the city to hire full-time people.
“We have an obligation to our citizens to have a nice-looking town,” Councilman Bob Nutter stated, “Some signposts look like they were put in by a drunken sailor.”
St. Marys Mayor, John Morrissey, addressed the staff shortage as well stating it is, “Now a need.”
Tidal Ditch Maintenance
The issue, addressed by local citizens, stemmed from drainage ditches in the downtown area, blocked by marsh grass, not flowing, but instead filling with stagnant water from rain.
St. Marys resident, Larry Newton stated in his professional experience to, “Anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control.”
Newton investigated the drainage issue and suggested that the Conyers drainage ditch is 80 percent blocked by marsh grass. Newton also spoke of the contracts and permits required for maintenance of the ditch.
Councilmember Linda Williams stated that she has received numerous emails from citizens about ongoing clogged ditches and drainage maintenance issues. Williams asked Marr why it takes so long just to clean a ditch.
According to Marr, a letter of authorization is required to remove debris with a rake requires a permit. Once submitted, the request can take up to a month for issuance at which time the city’s maintenance division can only pull debris out, not reshape the ditches.
To dig out the drainage ditches back to their original grade a Nationwide permit is required which would allow the usage of mechanized equipment.
These guidelines, upheld by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Marr contacted multiple contracting companies about the proposal and only one response came back from an environmental consultant, Sligh Environmental Consultants, which is the same company utilized for the boat ramp.
City council voted unanimously to approve permit request and begin moving forward with awarding the contract to Sligh Environmental Consultants.