City Engineer Edward Kemp explains

City Engineer Edward Kemp explains the problems with storm water drainage.

Angry citizens stood before the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday evening to bring attention to severe flooding and drainage problems across the city.

While several citizens spoke out about the problems, Anna Dodd was the most exasperated in her displeasure.

Dodd's neighborhood, Country Club Estates, is located down South Montgomery Road and has been a victim of constant flooding for years, since June 2014 according to Dodd.

"So far this year, we've had approximately five flooding events, which means it's happening more frequently," Dodd said. "The water is getting higher and higher each time."

On April 13, the flooding finally became strong enough to break into Dodd's home. She recalled worrying about her furniture and belongings at first then dreading for her children's safety if the water did not stop.

"April 13 was the day of the flood," Dodd said. "It was the day I feared. It was the day it got into every door of my home. It was a scary feeling being inside of your house, your safe place, and not being able to leave because of the water that surrounds you."

Dodd explained her home had still not been repaired. She said she was at the meeting to ask the city to take measures to mitigate flooding issues.

"Our main concern is that it doesn't happen again," Dodd said. "Unless something is done quickly, it will."

Dodd asked the aldermen to take immediate action to fix the problem rather than hire specialists to study the problem, which could take years according to Dodd.

Several residents of Country Club Estates, Dodd's neighborhood, were in attendance to support Dodd Tuesday night.

City Engineer Edward Kemp was called to speak and said a consultant had been brought in to assure the drainage systems were working as intended, noting that it was built to be compliant with the city's storm water ordinance and to protect against a, "100-year event."

"With the concern that has been raised, we are asking this consultant to look at this design and, not only how it was initially designed but how it was constructed, to make sure it does meet those two requirements," Kemp said.

Kemp anticipated the consultant being finished by the end of the month.

Though the entire board agreed something should be done about the storm drainage problems, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk argued the lack of room in the budget was the main reason for inaction.

Sistrunk said something could be done about the budget, but it could mean a loss of personnel for city services like law enforcement or fire station staffs, which she doubted was what the people of Starkville wanted.

"There are things we could do that would reduce personnel that would potentially free up money for some of these other projects," Sistrunk said. "I don't think that's the route most people want us to take because I think there's continuing demand for more personnel as we grow."

J. L. KING CENTER

J.L. King Center Project Manager Latalla Harris asked the board to consider helping the J.L. King Center with its utility bill. This comes in the wake of the announcement earlier this week that Emerson Family School was pulling its support for the community center, which has been funded primarily through grants. 

Aldermen voted to terminate a previous contract between the city and Starkville-Oktibbeha County Consolidated School District in light of the changes with the center.

Emerson lost the Family First grant earlier this year after the temporary government shutdown.

With no permanent source of funding in sight, the J.L. King Center has started a fundraising effort called the Lighthouse Project. Businesses and community organizations can pledge money to the center through the project annually for the next five years.

"We currently have raised about $25,000 through that project," Harris said.

Harris spoke Monday night at the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meeting with the same request for help with the utility bill as she had for the city.

Harris said the center was an absolute necessity for the community due to all the services it offers, such as GED classes and anger management classes, which is often court ordered.

"If close this building, if we close this program down, a lot of services in that neighborhood will get lost," Harris said. "A lot of people will be lost in that neighborhood. A lot of services will be lost. We won't be able to reach those people if we don't have this building in this particular neighborhood."

The J.L. King Center will remain open at least through the summer, offering reduced summer programs.

"I stand behind the King Center," Harris said. "We're not going anywhere. We're going to fight, and we're going to continue to try and raise funds to keep the King Center open."

The board did not take any action regarding Harris' request Tuesday night.

The J.L. King Center is owned by the city of Starkville's Parks and Recreation Department.

For more from the meeting, read Wednesday's Starkville Daily News.

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