As the cleanup continues in downtown Madison and other areas impacted by flash flooding on June 18, the city of Madison has launched a multi-phased response at getting help for those who lost property last month while addressing ways to mitigate flooding in the future and how to access assistance more quickly and effectively in the wake of future disasters.
Madison City Council adopted a resolution supporting flood recovery efforts Tuesday and heard the first reading of an ordinance adopting new flood plain regulations. Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Courtney said the city has already met with Army Corps of Engineers representatives to determine what can be done to prevent damaging flooding in the future and is looking to work with volunteer organizations to build a local support network that can quickly respond after floods and other disasters moving forward.
The resolution adopted by the council confirms a recommendation by the Board of Public Works and Safety on Monday to provide free trash and debris removal in the impacted neighborhoods for as long as needed by the cleanup. The measure also ensures residents in the affected areas that there will be no discontinuation of water and sewage services through December 2021 as long as they have filed applications for flood relief. Additionally, all fees for building permits in the flood area will be waived so that residents can get about rebuilding.
While the official action focused on immediate flood relief, Courtney said the longer range goal is to address the flash flooding issue by working with the Army Corps of Engineers to analyze the problem and develop a comprehensive storm water plan that determines where the water is coming from and how the city can better handle storm runoff like North Walnut Street and other nearby neighborhoods along Crooked Creek experienced last month and previously in 2015.
Courtney said developing a comprehensive plan will require a great deal of work and a significant investment — he estimated $350,000 just for the plan — before the city can even begin actual mitigation work. He said the process will take time but based on the feedback city, county and local disaster and emergency officials received in their meeting with Corps of Engineers representatives, they are eager to get started.
“It’s not going to be quick. It’s not going to be inexpensive,” Courtney noted, adding that the plan should eventually give the city and county the information needed to address the issues as funding allows.
Courtney commended the efforts of local volunteer groups for making sure that those residents hit hardest have the resources to live after losing so much. He also noted that Madison needs to take a page from statewide organizations like the national and statewide Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to organize and develop a local disaster response organization in Jefferson County to coordinate churches and charities and volunteers and resources to pre-plan for situations like the flooding and other disasters.
He said VOAD could be done on a local level with the organization raising funds and developing resources so that when disaster strikes, the response with help can be immediate both in terms of financial and material support as well as personnel.
Dave Adams, representing the local Salvation Army, said that currently six families are being provided housing vouchers to stay in local motels after their homes were severely damaged by flooding. He said meals and clothing are being provided and along with manpower to clear debris, clean homes and tear out floors that need to be replaced due to water damage.
In other flood-related reports, Courtney said the Milton Street Bridge over Crooked Creek — which connect Jefferson Street to Michigan Road — has been inspected and damage from the flood was more minor than first thought. He said the deck basically needs replacing in areas lifted up by the flood and that paving equipment could be on-site to complete that work by the end of the week and the bridge could be reopened to traffic soon after that.
Meanwhile, Julie Thevenow, a property owner in the area of the flooding, asked the city to continue holding informational meetings in that neighborhood like the session Courtney and Jefferson County Emergency Service Director Troy Morgan held at the Walnut Street Fire Company just days after the disaster. She said local residence would appreciate having someone come to their neighborhood to provide updates on the situation.
In other business, the council:
• Heard the second and third readings of an ordinance amending the city’s zoning map to change a 46-acre farm at 488 Hutchinson Lane now zoned industrial/residential to residential and clear the way for development of a subdivision targeted at starter homes.
“I’ve endorsed it because we need more single family housing at this price point to support our workforce development,” said Courtney. “We are at a critical need for housing.”
•Approved a resolution adopting a local plan for the $2,677,888 in funding the city will receive from the American Rescue Act grant for coronavirus relief. Part of that grant has been earmarked for the $350,000 storm water study.
• Held the first reading of an ordinance to establish a Public Arts Commission to then tackle the task of developing a Public Arts Master Plan.