Commission contracts with GMC for floodplain corrective action plan, appropriates foundation funding

Published 4:44 pm Friday, January 13, 2023

The Lowndes County Commission held its first meeting of the new year Monday, voting to appropriate funds to the ARK of Love Foundation and to contract with Montgomery engineering firm Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC) as consultants to create a corrective action plan addressing the Federal Emergency Management Agency letter outlining the county’s floodplain management ordinance violations.

Commissions unanimously agreed to appropriate funds to the ARK of Love Foundation, after the ministry requested assistance with serving mentally challenged residents. The request asked the commission to give $2,000, but after discussion, commissioners agreed to give $4,000.

Chairman Charlie King, Jr. offered to appropriate $2,000 from his discretionary fund. All other commissioners gave $500 from their discretionary funds.

The commissioners considered a proposal from GMC, in which the firm offered to create a corrective action plan to address violations of the county’s flood plain ordinance.

After discussing the proposal, commissioners agreed to contract with GMC for $19,500, a sum which the firm expects will enable them to create a plan sufficient to bring the county in line with FEMA requirements and help the county remain in good standing with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“[FEMA’s letter] mostly dealt with areas of Commissioner Harris’s district, which is down by the river, and other low-lying areas throughout the county,” said County Engineer David Butts. “Because we have these flood plain areas, we’re going to have to address enforcing the ordinance we agreed to in 1984.”

According to Butts, the 1984 ordinance prohibited construction in areas designated as a floodplain. The county has never enforced the ordinance, but GMC’s contract allows the firm to create a plan for addressing structures which violate the ordinance and also outline procedures for enforcing the ordinance moving forward.

“What would eventually happen if we do not enforce the ordinance, FEMA could take us off the list [for participation with NFIP],” Butts said. “So, if we have storms or things of that nature, we won’t have FEMA backing for helping residents.”

Commissioner Dickson Farrior expressed concern regarding what would happen if residents could not afford repairs or relocation required for floodplain requirements. 

Butts said FEMA representatives told him federal money may be available to help.

After further discussion, Commission Robert Harris noted that homeowners or landlords owning property in violation of the ordinance should be responsible for abiding by the ordinance. He urged commissioners to approve the GMC contract and formulate a plan for moving forward.

“All we’re doing is making sure we comply with what [FEMA] asks by using consultants who can get us to the point where we need to respond to their request,” Harris said. “The other stuff comes at the end, about how we handle [noncompliance] or how we enforce the ordinance.”

In other business, the commission:

– Discussed bids for purchasing highway department equipment;

– Received thanks from and updates from Lowndes County Extension Office Coordinator Tana Shealey;

– Discussed a 28% increase in landfill waste disposal costs and floated ideas for reducing costs to avoid a price increase from garbage service provider, Martin Garbage Service;

– Considered a request from Brandon Martin to save garbage service costs by closing the Martin Garbage Service Hayneville satellite office;

– Heard a plea from citizen Melissa Peak for animal rescue and shelter services and asked Peak to create a proposal for addressing the need;

– Received a report related to recent water outages from EMA Director Rodney Rudolph and charged Rudolph with putting plans in place for future outages;

– Heard progress from Rudolph for addressing emergency system siren repairs;

– Tasked Rudolph with installing a generator for the Lowndes County Water Authority;

– Entertained health care authority information provided by Alex Jones with UB Community Development;

– Received updates from Butts on the road pavement process and learned pavers are working in District 2;

– Reviewed $149,000 received from the sale of two county trucks;

– Discussed repair of the truck which hauls county equipment;

– Discussed trailer decal enforcement with Emma Harris and Larry Adams and also requested their input related to garbage service cost reduction;

– Tasked Harris and Adams with reducing the number of exempt garbage customers by adhering to exemption rules for income to qualify;

– Appointed Commissioner Joshua Simmons to serve on the Organized Community Action Program board of directors; and

– Tasked Harris with responding to a U.S. Department of Interior request to evaluate county properties for designation as part of the National Park System.