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Work begins on flood-prone areas

Jared Felkins Director of Content • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:43 PM

City workers this week started work on repairing and replacing culverts, cleaning out ditches and generally alleviating problem areas in Lebanon prone to flooding.

Mayor Philip Craighead released a priority list Thursday of the known areas throughout the city that will receive work in the near future following the Lebanon City Council’s decision to allocate $600,000 in reserve funds specifically for flood repairs.

Craighead said it’s a list the city has kept prioritized since heavy rains caused torrential flooding throughout the city in 2010 and even before. He said a flood study was completed in 2011 that helped prioritize the list, along with input from citizens and businesses.

He said since the council’s decision, the city can now move forward on a number of projects.

Projects at the top of the list include adding an additional culvert at Park Avenue at a cost of $4,000, adding an additional culvert at Palmer Road for $3,400, installing new pipes and ditch work on Tennessee Boulevard at Stonebridge Storage for $13,000 and adding an another culvert and ditch work on Caruthers Avenue near the railroad tracks.

At least one project near the top of the list was completed Sept. 26, which included replacing a culvert at the corner of Knoxville Avenue and South College Street. That project was budgeted at $1,500 and came in under budget at $1,307.

According to the project list, other items to be done include a number of debris and sediment removal projects in drainage ditches, creeks and streams across the city, including areas near Richmond Hills, Johnson Heights and Barton’s Creek. Craighead said despite the efforts and given both the city’s geographical location and the fact that Lebanon is situated “in a bowl,” a heavy rain in Watertown with little or no rain in Lebanon could cause flooding in certain parts of the city regardless of what work is done.

In a letter sent to The Democrat earlier this week from mayoral challenger Robert “Bob” O’Brien, he praised the council for allocating the $600,000 to fixing flood-prone areas in the city. According to the ordinance, each of the city’s six wards received $100,000 for flood repairs.

“The reserve fund should be used for this type of expenditure, not to shore up shortfalls in the city’s annual budget,” O’Brien said in the letter, referring to a $2.5 million current budget deficit. “The chronic flooding of certain parts of our city has gone on for far too long. Since returning to Lebanon in 2005 to make it our final home, I have heard constant complaints about flooding every year, so I am very proud of the steps the council has taken to address it.”

O’Brien, however, was critical of Craighead – his opponent in the Nov. 6 election along with challenger David Kievernagel – for not asking for money sooner from the council to fix flood-prone areas.

“My only issue is a single question for Mayor Philip Craighead. Why didn’t he take this action to allocate the money last year when the city received the flood study that cost $70,000?” O’Brien said in the letter. “That study outlined the remedial cleanup work that is authorized by this money. The flooding our citizens experience this year could have been alleviated with timely action last year.”

Craighead said the city’s sales tax revenues, along with other money the city receives from taxes, were not at a level last year to allow the city to comfortably afford the work. He also released sales tax figures Thursday the city has received since 2006.

According to the report, Lebanon saw a significant decline in sales tax revenues from 2008-10. Only during the past fiscal year – from July 2011 to June 2012 – has the city seen revenue levels comparable to that same time in 2007-08 before an economic downturn hit across the nation.

In addition to the sales tax revenue and flood project priority reports, Craighead also released a report Thursday that outlines priorities for paving needs in Lebanon. He said a proposed 1/2-cent sales tax increase in Lebanon, which will be up for voters to decide in a referendum in the Nov. 6 election, will help in funding paving projects and further fixing flood-prone areas across the city.

The council last month passed an ordinance that would earmark the estimated $3.5 million in additional revenues the added sales tax would generate. According to the ordinance, half of the money would go into city reserves with the remaining half split between paving and flood-prone repair projects. The first $2.5 million raised by the added sales tax, however, would go toward shoring the city’s budget shortfall.

Among the top priorities in paving include Quarles Street from Hartmann Drive to the railroad tracks at a cost of nearly $25,000, Toshiba Street from Quarles Street to Carver for nearly $75,000, Babb Street from the bypass to Quarles for nearly $141,000, Harding Drive at Knoxville Avenue for nearly $19,000 and Dahlia Street from East Forrest to Nixon for nearly $15,000. Other projects include West Spring Street, Crowell Lane and Tucker’s Gap Road. The total paving priority list has a price tag of nearly $653,000.

Craighead said the paving priorities were determined based on the city’s observations of the streets, resident feedback and time since the streets last received work.

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