WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — After flooding during hurricanes Matthew and Florence, the City of Whiteville is taking steps to improve its storm-water drainage system. But just how effective are the improvements?
“This last Hurricane, we had about a foot of water in the shop,” said Lynn Simmons, manager of the Whiteville Body Shop.
Simmons knows firsthand how bad flooding can get downtown during heavy rain.
“They usually have to close the streets because people driving kind of make a wake like a boat, and it pushes water even worse into the buildings,” Simmons said.
In April 2018, the city of Whiteville got a $786,000 grant to improve its storm-water drainage system. More than a year later, Whiteville City Manager Darren Currie says construction is underway in two different areas near downtown.
“We’re installing two 30-inch lines adjacent to two 24-inch lines. So in essence, we’re doubling the capacity of those underground storm drains,” Currie said.
Currie says this will help pull water away from downtown. Simmons says he thinks the city needs to focus more on where the water is going once it drains from the street.
“Even though we’re trying to get it off the street, if the swamp’s already full obviously it’s not going to have anywhere to go,” Simmons said.
Currie says the city has a plan for that too, creating a storm-water crew to take on other tasks.
“Cleaning major drainage-ways out, cleaning the outfalls out,” Currie said.
That crew is funded by a new storm-water enterprise fund. This means taxpayers in Whiteville will now pay a storm-water fee of $6.00 per month for residential properties and $12.00 for businesses.
As far as stopping flooding from hurricanes like Matthew and Florence, Currie says it is not possible.
“To say that it’s going to stop flooding, the short answer is no. Will it help? Yes,” Currie said.
Currie says the city may reconsider charging storm-water fees based on the size of a property or business rather than a flat fee.