By NATHAN GREGORY
After choosing not to apply for a Community Development Block Grant that would have provided funding to pipe and cover the ditch on Carver Drive, the Starkville Board of Aldermen is now in the process of deciding how best to solve the area’s drainage issues.
The grant would have provided a maximum of $600,000 if the Mississippi Development Authority had received and approved a submission.
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District grant administrator Phylis Benson said in a previous report to the board that the likelihood of gaining approval would be the city’s willingness to match the grant dollar for dollar. Estimated cost for the project was $940,995, which was the most expensive of a list of possible improvement projects provided to the board last year.
The city already had $60,000 set aside in a reserve fund specifically for Carver Drive ditch improvements. In-kind services would have totaled approximately $230,995, and the city would have had to allot $50,000 in non-budgeted funds to make the total proposed match amount $340,995 — less than half of a dollar-for-dollar match.
Acceptance from MDA of the maximum amount would have meant that 20 percent of the city’s street department would be devoted solely to working on the ditch during construction season, which City Engineer Edward Kemp said starts April 1 and ends Oct. 31.
The intersection of Carver and Hiwassee Drive has a 60-inch pipe under it, while Carver Drive has a 66-inch pipe running under it from the intersection down a section of approximately 500 feet. The five options proposed in last year’s report would have corrected deficiencies along that stretch. Each of those options had alternates that would have extended the drainage improvements down the entire road past the 500-foot mark. Each alternate to the five options would have cost more than double than the original option.
In the total of 10 options, eight would have involved the installation of additional pipes or culverts to the Hiwassee-Carver intersection and on Carver Drive to better channel high amounts of water that might occur during a 100-year rain event. The other two are channel restoration improvements that would only include the placement of pipes at the intersection.
Kemp said all those options have approval from the Federal Emergency Management Association because they are capable of conveying the amount of water that would be present in a 100-year rain event. If such an event were to occur now, Kemp said, it would affect a total of 13 lots on that street.
Carver Drive falls along the line of Wards 6 and 7. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said the board displayed poor decorum in leading the citizens of that area to believe it would approve of the grant submission.
“The citizens were misled because they detrimentally relied on the fact that the board would yield approval for (GTPDD) to proceed with the grant application. There was some talk at the last meeting about how $600,000 is a lot of money. If the city of Starkville did not receive it, the money is going to be rewarded to a municipality or county, so the money is going to be utilized in some manner,” Perkins said. “In essence, the board refused to commit $50,000 in unbudgeted funds for drainage improvements. Regardless of whatever option is on the table, the board is going to be out at least $50,000 or more.
“The in-kind service (estimates) are just a bloated figure just to give detraction to the issue. The employees are going to have to be at work anyway, so that should not have even been a part of the equation. The drainage improvements are urgent and necessitous for the Carver Drive area,” Perkins said. “If the board was not willing to go forward with the grant ... they should have told us that on the front end. They said ... ‘Live with the snakes. Live with the rats. Live with the mosquitoes. We don’t care.’”
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said piping and covering any ditch is not necessarily the best option.
“When you pipe and cover something, you constrict it to a point that you only allow some percent of deviation of water to go through. I don’t think piping and covering every ditch in starkville is going to solve any problems — it’s probably going to create problems. There wasn’t enough return on investment on that grant,” Carver said. “I think the biggest complaints we’ve heard from citizens are snakes and mosquitoes. We’ve got that everywhere. Anytime you live in the Deep South you have snakes and mosquitoes.
“If he’s been trying to get it done for … years and seven different boards have not seen as being a priority, that ought to tell you something. It’s not as pressing as it has been presented in every board meeting. We have much bigger issues and more complex things that need to be worked on,” Carver said. “Maple Drive (in Ward 1) is the only place in the city where homes are actually flooding on a regular basis or flooding at all. The houses that are regularly taking on 6 inches of water in Green Oaks, those are the people we ought to be helping.”
Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman both said they will continue to look at the options and come to a resolution.
“I do want to do something to help the residents of Carver Drive even though I didn’t think the proposed million-dollar project was the best way to go about that,” Corey said. “I think the board should go back and reevaluate the various proposals (Kemp) has on the ditch and find one that works well within our budget.”
“We’ll continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to address the issue,” Wiseman said.