Hartsville council hears flood-relief strategies
By Samantha Lyles
The July 14 meeting of Hartsville City Council offered some hope for city residents plagued by stormwater and flooding troubles.
David Brandes, South Carolina operations manager with engineering firm R.L. Robinson, presented council members with findings from a recent field survey, and spoke of plans to help clear out drainage ditches to mitigate stormwater flooding impacts. The initial project area surveyed includes problem ditches along Fourth Street, Ninth Street, and Marion Avenue, all of which eventually attach to Snake Branch Creek.
“That’s what’s being focused on and surveyed in terms of improving those,” said Brandes. “What we’re trying to do is focus on some of the bigger trunk ditches.”
Funding for this project could come from a FEMA grant, and the city will use field survey results and citizen questionnaire responses to bolster the grant application. Brandes said that E.L. Robinson sent out 4,075 surveys to Hartsville residents in the project area; 199 people returned the survey and responded to nine questions about flooding frequency and severity. Results revealed that most residents encounter “nuisance flooding” even after minor rainstorms.
Survey respondents were asked about their willingness to deploy their own flooding reduction measures. While the idea of rain barrels received a “lukewarm response,” respondents liked the idea of planting additional grasses and vegetation to drink up more water and reduce the flow of stormwater into drainage trunk lines.
Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Andrews asked whether money from the FEMA grant could be used to purchase rain barrels, grass seed, and other ground cover plants for residents, and Brandes replied that these purchases would be within the scope of the grant.
“FEMA actually prefers to spend some money on those type of things, not just pipes and ditches,” said Brandes. “You’ve got to do both.”
Brandes noted that while clearing out smaller clogged ditches will produce some drainage improvements, the larger blockages – those causing backflows and standing water – must be addressed for the system to function properly in the long term, and that takes more than a backhoe.
“You walk into some of these ditches and they’re over your head. You just can’t get into them with normal equipment,” Brandes said.
Council member Teresa Mack observed that some large blockages are caused by illegally dumped tires, and she said this problem could be lessened if more people knew that each licensed driver can dispose of four tires at the Darlington County Landfill for no charge.
On the regular agenda, council passed final reading of Ordinance 4393, authorizing an installment purchase transaction to refinance about $3 million in bond debt via the formation of the Hartsville Public Facilities Corporation. According to the ordinance, refinancing this debt will “decrease annual debt service of the City and improve the city’s annual cash flows on a short-term basis,” and allow for $10,000 in technology upgrades to City Council chambers.
The extract explains that the city will lease property underlying City Hall at 100 East Carolina Avenue and the Lawton Park Pavilion at 716 Prestwood Drive to the corporation in exchange for these installment purchase revenue bonds. The facilities will remain publicly owned. Initially, the corporation will be directed by Councilman Bobby McGee, city finance director Karen Caulder and local businessman Franklin Hines.
Final reading of Ordinance 4394 passed without objection. This measure expands permissions regarding the public consumption of alcohol to include future businesses in the Canal District and The Vista, thereby making the development area more appealing to potential investors.
Council approved annexation of two parcels of land measuring 42.8 acres and 5.8 acres located on Bay Road. The Darlington County School District owns these properties and has petitioned the city of Hartsville to annex them into city limits.
Also, council agreed to lease 2,714 square feet of city-owned property on South Fourth Street to Retrofit Sip ‘n’ Seat for business parking and access. The lease runs from Sep. 1, 2020, to Aug. 30, 2021, for $5 annually. City manager Daniel Moore described the property as “a sliver of land that essentially has no value to the city” which was excluded from the original property due to a surveying error.