Residents of Lebanon's Wards 5 and 6 came to City Hall on Thursday evening to discuss the problems with flooding and runoff whenever the city is struck by rain.
The meeting, the last of three, was planned to allow the city to identify the problem areas and come up with the most efficient way to solve them using the money each of the six city wards was given by the council to work on the problems.
"We know we have a lot of issues," said Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead as he opened the meeting. "We haven't had the money in the budget for a while, but the city council last year gave each ward $100,000 so now we have the ability to not just hear about a problem but to do some stuff."
He said the meeting would begin with Ward 5 and 6 residents speaking about their drainage problems, and then they could approach tables set up with topographical maps to discuss their specific problems with a city engineer.
The goal was to determine which problems were the worst and effecting the most people, so the funds set aside could be used wisely. He also said some of the work is done around the city to try and alleviate some of the flooding by cleaning out ditches and and installing new culverts.
"We want to get the most bang for our buck," Craighead said, adding there were forms in the room for residents to list what they are experiencing when waters rise around their homes. He then introduced councilors Tick Bryan and Kathy Warmath of Wards 5 and 6, respectively.
"Be patient," Warmath advised her constituents. "This is not going to be fixed overnight."
She also said the difference between immediate concerns and the problems caused by the bigger picture - the city having no long-term plan - encompasses holding new developments to standards that ensure longtime property owners aren't left holding the bag when water starts to run off ill-planned sites.
Bryan said the series of meetings were a step in the right direction.
"We have to have preventive maintenance and keep this going every two to three years," Bryan said.
Craighead cautioned residents about making sure they dispose of their own brush and grass clippings wisely instead of putting them in streams.
"That helps an awful lot," he said. "They will back up on your later."
Then Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines, took the floor to answer questions and found himself the target of some venting by frustrated residents. They questioned what the city was doing to help and why the planning commission was giving permission to developers to build projects making their problems worse.
Baines cautioned residents the city "can't spend all the money in one location" and would be setting priorities.
"Anything easy, we'll do ourselves," Baines said. "These problems won't be solved in the next six months; it's going to take a little time."
He also said the plan is not to simply move a problem.
"We can't fix your problem and dump it on your neighbor," he said. "We will start on the lower part of the watershed. Some of these are projects not just maintenance work."
The floor was opened for comments from citizens, and comment they did.
Sixth Ward resident Jimm Dunn didn't mince words.
"We have really got a bad problem. I been through every damn thing you can imagine," he said. "I'm going to be here bothering you people until I get some help."
Others complained new buildings and homes were allowed to be built with little regard to how they would affect properties lower on the watershed.
"We're not perfect," Baines said in the face of the complaints. "Some of these are old problems that we inherited."
He also said when the city gets rain causing flooding, there's not a lot that can be done except make sure ditches and culverts are as clean as possible to move as much water as possible out of neighborhoods.
"I'm not the good Lord, and when we get 2 inches of rain in two hours - I can't fix that. But we can try to mitigate it," Baines said.
Warmath again said the problems have to be prevented before buildings are allowed to be built.
"I don't think you should build something at the expense of someone else," she said.
Baines also advised residents they need to make their specific problems known by either mailing in a form, emailing one on the public works website or by bringing one in by hand.
Once the city has a list of the presenting problems, engineers will review them and determine which ones are really the same problem or caused by the same source. Once those areas are identified, they will be given high priority for the funds available, thus doing as much good as possible for the most people.
The overall theme of the meeting was that drainage is not a series of problems, but one big problem for the entire city and needs to be addressed as such.
"We have 35 square miles and a limited reserve," Craighead said. "We looking for things that might help a whole area and show the most results."