Like many residents of Port Orange, I am pleased that the deplorable lack of drainage ditch maintenance is now being addressed by the Public Works Department. It is a shame, however, that years of neglect in this area required a recent series of flood events to motivate the Department to do its job.
It is equally shameful that Monday’s article in the N-J places blame for this lack of maintenance on “budget cuts” rather than on incompetent management where it belongs. The City of Port Orange collects a dedicated Stormwater Utility fee from all property owners in the city and this fee was never cut in any budget. Rather, the fee was used to illegally fund routine lawn mowing of road medians and other City property. The need to pay for median upkeep came about when the City’s mowing contractor quit over a contract dispute and Public Works said that mowing could be done just as cheaply in-house as by a private company.
In-house mowing ended up costing three times as much as private mowing! Hence the need to shift funds from their intended use for drainage ditch maintenance. Private citizens have been calling for a full accounting of the misappropriation of Stormwater Utility fees but the City Manager and City Council have failed to act–even though utility fees are dedicated by law for specific purposes only. Some feel that it is time for the States Attorney to look into the improprieties but misuse of taxpayer assets is not high on their list of priorities.
618 Ruth Street
Port Orange, Florida 32127
Port Orange clearing ditches to minimize flooding
By Austin Fuller
Published: Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 5:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 5:25 p.m.
PORT ORANGE — The city is halfway through cleaning up its canals and ditches, a process that could help minimize flooding.
The city had cleared 39,591 linear feet of canals and ditches as of March 25, with 40,409 linear feet still to be done.
This process began after flooding in September, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Silvey said. While ditches were worked on sporadically before then, the city has now dedicated an employee to work on ditches full time.
Ditch clearing became backlogged because of budget cuts in 2008, Silvey said.
As water flows, it carries sediments, and over so many years the sediments fill in ditches, Public Works Director Branford Adumuah explained.
“If you don’t keep up with maintenance … your volume is reduced, and therefore it cannot carry the water that it should be carrying and therefore there’s flooding,” Adumuah said. “So, you have to have a regular maintenance program, you don’t just fall behind.”
In addition to moving water, ditches also hold water so it can seep into the soil, Silvey said, and sediment build up also keeps water from seeping into the soil.
Silvey said the ditch issue is citywide.
“It was pretty significant,” Silvey said. “It had taken away volume storage of storm water, a lot of sediment built up in the ditch that caused choke points along the ditch. It just didn’t allow it to flow.”
The goal is to have all the ditches cleared by October.
When the city is done clearing its ditches, there has to be a regular maintenance program that is fully funded and kept up, Adumuah said.
“You cannot get rid of flooding entirely, but you can minimize, mitigate, based upon your maintenance program and the impact is not going to be significant if you have a very well funded, viable drainage maintenance program,” Adumuah said.
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