CHIPLEY — The Chipley City Council discussed flooding issues that plagued the city during the rainy months of July and August when they met on Tuesday at City Hall.
A handful of residents were on hand to ask the city what could be done to keep the floodwater out of their homes in the future.
The torrential rains of July and August brought widespread flooding to Washington County, and overflowed Blue Lake to the point of closing Highway 77 for a week and damaging the community center.
In several city streets, water overran ditches and filled yards, creeping into several homes.
One area of the city has reported problems repeatedly to the city, around 1st Avenue and Peach Street, has engineering problems that will be very expensive to fix, City Administrator Dan Miner said.
“Our hands are tied there,” Miner said. One of the problems is too much development over the years has resulted in nowhere for the rain to go, and all the water runs into one 9-inch culvert under the highway. Even with the ditches clean, when it rains hard the water can only move through the pipe so fast.
“It generally clears out pretty fast, but when it rains like it did it’s just too much for it to handle,” Miner said.
The Department of Transportation has been involved in looking for ways to fix the problem, and a detention pond was added at the new McDonald’s restaurant, but the flooding in residential areas and along Highway 77 continues to be a problem.
“The pond at McDonald’s was full to the rim,” Mayor Linda Cain said. “But there has to be something we can do to help these people.”
“We are talking about a fix that ultimately could take millions of dollars,” Miner said. “I think as the city developed, they probably followed the flood plain maps of their time, but I don’t think they were good enough for what we have now.”
Miner told the residents that the recent FEMA disaster declaration did not include individual claims, but he advised them to document all repairs with photos and receipts. “You never know, that may change in the future, so be sure and document any work you have to do,” he said.
For damage to individual residences, FEMA is depending in insurance companies to cover the repairs, he said.
Washington County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett told the council the Chipley Redevelopment Agency is planning on having the city Arts Council coordinate a program in which children paint the fire hydrants in the city.
“We want to provide the paint and let them be creative,” Everett said. “We want to get the kids involved and make this a community project.”
Councilman Kevin Russell asked if there would be a theme for the hydrants and Everett said there would not be one. “We don’t want them all painted like watermelons, that is a one-time a year event,” Everett said. “We don’t want to say ‘it must be this, it must be that.’”
Everett said the CRA was also investigating the possibility of installing splash pads in the city for children to play in, possibly at Pals Park or near the Farmers Market in downtown Chipley.
Splash pads are basically sprinklers that spray kids from a self-contained water source which recycles the water, Everett said. Marianna has a splash pad near its farmers market pavilion which is very popular with the children, he added.
“We always hear there is nothing for the children to do, so we want to look into adding some things for them,” Everett said.
The CRA is also discussing a grant program to help downtown businesses replace the outdated electrical wiring found in some buildings. The grant program would be a matching grant, but it could help property owners update some of the buildings and bring them up to code.
“It’s the small things that make a difference in a community, and some times it doesn’t take big money,” Everett said.