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City talks stormwater, money
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The Richmond Hill City Council met in regular session Tuesday night via teleconference with a Facebook livestream.

The council discussed stormwater management, city finances and heard public concerns about issues of racial equality in Richmond Hill (see related story).

Mayor Russ Carpenter urged all residents of Richmond Hill to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing when out in public, saying that COVID-19 did not go away and numbers of cases have been rising. He reminded residents fall activities may come to an end if residents are not vigilant in taking measures to slow the spread of the virus now.

Assistant City Manager,Scott Allison made a presentation to the council about stormwater management as hurricane season heats up.

According to Allison, the council and city staff met with drainage experts at their June 16 workshop and discussed rain events like the event that recently brought 5 inches of rain in the course of an hour.

Allison told the council an Environmental Protection Division mandated Stormwater Master Plan has been annually reviewed since 2014. The plan includes supplemental information, capital improvement plans, and updated engineering design standards. EPD requires this plan is updated and an annual permit is acquired which Allison said promotes a proactive approach to stormwater management.

For Richmond Hill resident Cynthia Hatala, whose home has flooded twice, assisting of Richmond Hill in pinpointing flooding hotspots was a matter of taking action. After posting a Facebook request for information Richmond Hill in pinpointing flooding hotspots was a matter of taking action. After posting a Facebook request for information, Hatala said she received 47 statements with pictures and flooding details.

This list provided by Hatala could pair well with inventory and condition assessments as part of the stormwater plan.

According to Allison, about 3,000 structures are inventoried and updated annually to keep city staff apprised of the type of structure, location, and damage level. This inventory includes photos that can be accessed via mobile devices in the field. These structures are classified by their structural damage as routine maintenance or major capital improvement projects, according to Allison.

The Stormwater Master Plan also lays out the budget of approximately $550,000 annually, staff positions and inter-departmental assistance, dedicated equipment and vehicles, civil engineering services, and capital equipment purchases. It also includes a multi-year project list for the five basins in Richmond Hill where water collects before draining off into the Ogeechee River. These include sediment and debris removal, conveyance maintenance, road elevation and pipe system connection, drainage assessments, pipe upsizing, open space acquisition and preservation, and subdivision culvert enhancements.

Projects include property protection and open space preservation, culvert upsize analysis, additional easement acquisitions, drainage assessment, localized flooding improvements, elevation and base flood comparison, and finding funding. According to Allison, the stormwater program focuses on areas that are below the FEMA-established flood elevation of 12,000 feet above sea level, as most are at 9,000 feet or less.

As the council reviewed Allison’s Stormwater presentation and heard from Bob Whitmarsh on the May financials and annual millage process, Council member Steve Scholar voiced his concern that no significant drainage improvements could be made without increasing the millage rate, though he also admitted he did not want to increase taxes.

Whitmarsh told the council the millage rate would not be increasing, but three public hearings are scheduled for July 21 and August 4 to discuss the Georgia Department of Revenue- mandated annual millage process.

Mayor Carpenter disclosed that he does not believe Richmond Hill needs to raise millage rates at this time to work through drainage maintenance problems, but if the time ever came that it did, the council seated would have to take that into consideration.

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