Mayor, aldermen meet with Bakers over watershed issue

By Martin Couch

Chris and Michelle Baker came to Bryant City Hall on Wednesday morning to state their case for getting a ditch refurbished behind their home at 1717 Augusta Cove.

The Bakers were victims of the 2008 flood that caused an emergency situation of flooding houses and rescues. The ditch behind their house[more] eroded the side of the creek bed, causing a large sinkhole under their privacy fence. The fence had to be taken down for repairs to be made.

At the time, Bryant City engineer Richard Penn agreed to fix the problem as soon as possible, but other major projects were prioritized ahead of them and the city's budget was dwindling.

Alderman Ed Collins recently won a $70,000 lawsuit against the City for similar damages to his property, which neighbors the Bakers on Augusta Cove. The Bakers met with Mayor Larry Mitchell, Alderman Adrian Henley and Alderman Brenda Miller at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss a possible resolution to this problem.

"I have no authority to appropriate any contract for any kind of money without the City Council's approval and since there is going to be a new mayor and two new members of the City Council next month, this might want to wait to give the new members the background."

The Bakers said they were mainly concerned with a timetable for fixing the ditch.

"At this point, Mr. Collins won his lawsuit against the city and the Finance and Personnel committee has recommended to the City Council to appeal that and, of course, at the same time negotiate some type of settlement to get the project done."

Miller pointed out the approved grants for that area that will fund construction of the low water bridge at Forest Cove, construction at Henson Place that parallels Highway 5, channelization of the creek under Highway 5 up to Forest Cove and slope the banks with concrete in some areas up to Sunset Meadows.

"It should help with the drainage," Mitchell said. "Some of these things will be taking place in the next nine months."

Henley said that he had already discussed alternative resolutions for the Bakers property and put it on the City Council agenda for Thursday's meeting. Penn's report is to include costs for galvanized culverts, polyethylene pipes and concrete.

"If we do it in-house, it will be cheaper depending on which type of culverts they use," Mitchell said. "Richard is supposed to bring those figures to the City Council."

"We wanted to know what was going on and if they were going to do anything about our side of the problem," Michelle Baker said. "I started getting worried when I wasn't getting an answer about it."

And Mitchell explained that he didn't think an answer would come from December's City Council meeting yet, but it was incentive for the project to move up to the top of the priority list.

"We have huge holes in our back yard and small children," Baker said.

Mitchell again indicated the numerous projects that were budgeted from the city's general funds.

"I was surprised when I came into office in March, I drove all over town and took pictures and I was shocked at how many projects there were," Miller said. "Looking at the budget and projects as the months have gone on, I have come to understand more. I don't like it, because we don't like having the projects, we would like to have them all fixed, but it's looking like the grants we are getting that are going to be for this are in 2011 and that is going to get more attention in the drainage in that area."

Baker felt as though he and his family have been patient waiting on the city to fix the ditch.

"We had a serious situation with Cox Creek and had to put that first because of federal directives and it kept us from getting to things on our to-do list," Mitchell said. "The priorities shifted to another project when houses had been flooded, that was the main thing."

The Bakers asked when a date could be set for construction. After the City Council has reviewed the budget for next year, Mitchell thought it was highly likely they would get an answer on a resolution in February.

"Until the City Council sees the budget, I don't think they will be able to tell us exactly when," Mitchell said.

Henley and Miller agreed that the Bakers’ concerns should be put on the budget and agenda for the City Council in upcoming months. The Bakers were also advised to write a letter to the City of Bryant stating exactly what they wanted to resolve the problem.

"We just want our property back the way it was," Michelle Baker said.

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