Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Prep work preventing usual floods

Leader staff writer

Heavy rainfall in Cabot this week didn’t cause the usual flooding, and Mayor Eddie Joe Williams gives credit to Jerrel Maxwell, his director of public works, and street department workers who have been busy since January cleaning ditches, opening the ends of culverts and replacing culverts when necessary.

“I just can’t say enough good about the work they are doing,” Williams said Monday. “In January, Jerrel and I rode through these subdivisions and there was flooding everywhere. We had a deluge this morning and it was heartwarming to find not one of those locations in serious trouble.”

Williams said they drove during the Monday rain through the usual trouble spots – Elm Street, Timberwood, West Oaks, Diamond Creek and Nalley Road – and where water should have been threatening homes there was only water running down the ditches.

Despite the $20,000 in increased monthly revenue for the street department that the city has gained from last year’s special census, Williams hasn’t overlaid any streets.

Instead, he has asked Maxwell to have his workers concentrate on problems that cost little more than man hours to correct, like digging out ditches that didn’t drain properly and jacking open culverts that were caved in so the water couldn’t get through.

The new money is going in the bank for next year’s projects, the mayor said.

When Williams took office in January, he laid off the city engineer, the computer-aided draftsman and the engineer who worked as public works director.

Maxwell, whose background is construction, ran public works under former Mayor Joe Allman, and Williams put him back in that position at a salary of about $20,000 per year less than the position had paid for the past four years.

Williams said Tuesday that the experts he laid off in January might have been good at drawing plans, but he needed someone who could get the work done.

“We had a CAD guy,” he said. “Now we’ve got Dan Wilhite shooting the grade of ditches.”

Maxwell said part of the flooding was caused by ditches that had filled in with sediment preventing rainwater from running downhill.

To make them flow again, workers determine the grade with a transit and dig them out where needed, he said. Maxwell said he can’t keep the ditches from filling when it rains, but his workers have been able to make the water run down faster. “We’re doing everything we can to keep people’s houses from being flooded,” he said.