November 24, 2012 9:31:29 PM
STARKVILLE -- Residents of Carver Drive in Starkville are still awaiting improvements on the drainage and sewage ditch that borders the west end of the street.
The ditch acts as a catch area for storm water and sewage drainage for much of northwest Starkville, and has been a thorn in the side of both Carver Drive residents and city officials for over a decade.
But earlier this year, the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved two separate projects that, once completed, could address both the drainage and sewage issues.
In August, the city sent out an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for improvements to the Carver Drive ditch. The area is a flood plain, and as a result, any work on the ditch must be approved by FEMA.
Then in September, the board approved a $1.5 million Capital Improvements Revolving (CAP) Loan that was allotted to address needs for sewage infrastructure in southwest Starkville and Carver Drive.
But as of Friday, neither of these projects had even entered the beginning stages, according to outspoken Carver Drive resident Daisy McDowell, who said she sits out on her porch or in her back yard every day, and has yet to see the slightest bit of work.
"They haven't done one thing," McDowell said. "They quieted the neighborhood down because they said they were going to do it, so no one is really checking on it anymore."
McDowell, who has been a regular at the Starkville Board of Aldermen meetings for the past few months, said she has been absent for the past three weeks, but has caught the re-broadcasts of the aldermen meetings on the public-access TV channel.
"They have stopped talking about it, from what I have seen," McDowell said. "They are not thinking about fixing this up, they are just thinking about shutting our mouths up."
But one of the main issues relies on FEMA itself and the process with which it approves the type of improvements the city is attempting to bring to Carver Drive.
Then City Planner Ben Griffith, told the Dispatch in August that FEMA will probably send back suggestions on how to improve their written request, rather than granting or denying the proposal. The process could take more than six months, he said.
"It's not very likely that the first thing we send to them gets approved," Griffith said. "More than likely, they will find some things and have some questions, and they'll give us suggestions in order to meet their criteria. It will be a back and forth thing."
But some residents say that even if the plan receives FEMA approval, it won't really be a solution.
"What they have said they are going to do will only make things worse," McDowell said. "Especially for small kids."
The proposed improvements include monitoring the flow of water and intake to see where weaknesses are, and paving the ditch with cement and rocks to promote that flow.
In May, the Aldermen voted not to apply for a Community Development Block Grant, which would have cost the city $50,000 in addition to a $60,000 already set aside for drainage project from the previous term's budget. The city could have potentially received $600,000 for the project. Several Aldermen voiced concern over the proposed solution to pipe and cover the ditch. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins does not understand their reservations.
"We passed the covering of a big wide ditch a few years back that ran along the former West Side Park, and to my knowledge we haven't had any problem with that," he said. "With no covering, (Carver Drive ditch) produces a situation that amounts to a health hazard that is detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the residents."