A larger group of concerned citizens turned out Thursday for a second round of public meetings to discuss flooding issues specifically for Ward 3 and Ward 4 residents.
About 75 people packed Lebanon City Council chambers, about double that of Ward 1 and Ward 2 residents who met in the same setting a week ago. But Lebanon received about 2 inches of rain between the two meetings.
Several residents expressed specific concerns all dealing with flooding conditions at their homes and in their neighborhoods as Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines moderated and attempted to address each issue.
During the meeting, Baines told the crowd the city is doing what it could to address flooding problems, but he advised residents to also do what they could to keep ditches and other water runoff system clean and free of debris.
“It’s something we’ve all got to do to maintain it,” Baines said.
Resident Tim Jobe expressed concern a widening project at Leeville Pike caused surrounding areas to now flood during times of heavy rainfall.
“We’ve been out there in boats several times,” Jobe said. “Years ago, they used to take a backhoe and dump truck and clean the ditches out. They don’t do that anymore.”
Baines responded, “That’s what we want to get back to doing.”
Another resident, Patrick Strawbridge, joined neighbors in criticizing the city of favoring businesses over residents. Strawbridge described his home near First Tennessee Bank and Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home, both of which are on West Main Street.
It’s unfair for a business to have more power and drain onto your property,” Strawbridge said. “We’re not taking a proactive approach and holding people accountable for things that should have already been addressed.”
Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino spoke up and mentioned $600,000 the council approved last year to come from reserve funds to address some of the flooding issues. Each ward will receive $100,000 for fixes, and the meetings are designed to prioritize projects in each ward. Ward 5 and Ward 6 residents meet Thursday at 6:15 at City Hall for the final round of meetings.
“We are starting with the money, and we’re going to start a database,” Cesternino said. “This is the largest group I’ve seen on this. We need to find out where these areas are that need help.
Strawbridge responded, “It takes a lot of jumping up and down and screaming about this.”
Cesternino said money is the key issue to resolving the problems.
“We’re trying to do the best we can,” he said. “We’re going to have to find money. That’s going to have to be a decision that’s made by the entire council. If we would have passed a ½-cent sales tax we asked for, we’d have more money do deal with these problems. That money was primarily earmarked for infrastructure and infrastructure is one of my top concerns.”
Mayor Philip Craighead concluded the meeting with an update before residents filed issues with city officials in one-on-one meetings.
“No one’s been in the creeks and cleaned in a while,” Craighead said.
He said in 2010, the city received a grant that allowed for about 9-10 miles of creeks to be freed from debris.
“That helped, but we’re going to have to do more,” Craighead said.
The council took care of several housekeeping budget issues in a 10-minute special-called meeting Thursday prior to the flooding discussion.
Among the matters addressed, the council approved a measure on its final reading that will allow the Public Works Department to hire temporary workers for day-to-day operations so staff can concentrate on flooding and drainage remediation throughout the city.
Other ordinances passed on their final readings addressed the following:
• authorization for line-item fund transfers for building maintenance.
• reorganization of positions and pay scales at the Wastewater Treatment Plant to reallocate responsibilities after a supervisor’s retirement.
• authorization for a line-item fund transfer to the Recreation Department to cover the cost of bank charges for online registrations.
• authorization for a line-item fund transfer to the Customer Service Department for a cut sheet cutter service agreement.
• bids approved for a cut sheet cutter for the Utilities Department.
• bids approved for a three-quarter-ton truck for the Gas Department.
• bids approved for a truck with a utility bed for the Fire Department.
• bids approved for a street sweeper for the Street Department.
• bids approved for seven sets of turnout gear for the Fire Department
• bids approved for six police cars.
• authorization to buy a replacement ditch bucket for the Street Department.