A Brookings employee oversees the installation of cement stabalizers in a sinkhole behind McDonald’s.Photo submitted by the city of Brookings
The unprecedented back-to-back winter storms that blew through Curry County in the past two weeks have caused an estimated $1.765 million in damage to city facilities in Brookings alone, City Manager Gary Milliman said Friday.
That doesn’t include $580,000 in drainage improvements needed to protect public and private property from future stormwater damage, and an estimated $600,000 in damage to private property.
“We wouldn’t be surprised to discover further damage to city facilities in coming weeks,” said Public Works Director Loree Pryce.
Milliman’s staff issued eight contracts and two more were pending as of Wednesday to companies hired to repair sewer pipes, sinkholes, water mains, culverts and roads. Other funds were spent to clear culverts and ditches and pay overtime for the numerous city employees – even office staff and retired workers called back into duty.
The most expensive outlay will be to restore the hillside and replace the Beach Avenue sewer lift station, estimated at $711,000. The collapsed culvert behind McDonald’s will cost an estimated $347,000; the Ransom Avenue sinkhole, at $110,000, also contributes to the estimated total.
Now the city is trying to figure out how to pay for it.
The storm threw the city of Brookings a few loops, Milliman said at a special meeting Tuesday held to address problems stemming from the first storm.
There were three sinkholes, two of which took out all or part of roadways. A sewer lift station sloughed over the cliff off Beach Avenue; it will cost the city $10,000 a month to rent its temporary replacement. The wastewater treatment plant had a peak flow of 5.8 million gallons during the 24-hour period of Nov. 19 and 20 – a normal “wet weather’ event is about 2 million gallons.
The machinery used to clear debris from culverts was out of commission for a day undergoing repairs after the first day of the storm.
The city is short-staffed as it is. The Public Works crew totalled three when it should have seven. Volunteers from the police and fire departments and crews from the wastewater treatment plant, office staff – even two retired employees – were called in to help.
“We didn’t win every battle,” Milliman said. “But people in town are safe. We need to find ways to assist people in their recovery. We did what we could with what we had.”
Among the items the city will address in the months ahead is reviewing its stormwater plan, drainage sheds and the existing system, including the ages and sizes of culverts.
“We found discrepancies between what exists (in the ground) and what is in the city (paperwork) system,” Milliman said.
The city and county are collecting information from residents affected by the storm. Private insurance might cover little to none of the costs but, collectively, damage done to citizens’ homes could qualify the county for federal disaster aid.
Under a formula the state uses to determine that eligibility – it involves the population base and a dollar amount per citizen – Curry County needs to have suffered $71,000 in damage to meet the minimum threshold.
Damage throughout Curry County is far above that, said County Emergency Services Coordinator Don Kendall, who is compiling information.
The 210 homeowners – 120 in Brookings and 90 in Gold Beach – who submitted estimates to him as of Wednesday indicate damage totals about $800,000. An estimated $600,000 in damage was recorded in Brookings alone.
If the federal government comes through, it could pay up to 75 percent of municipal damages and possibly help private citizens, Milliman said. Other funding program are available for hazard mitigation projects and stormwater improvement, including shoring up land and replacing culverts with larger pipelines.
A sewer bond currently in place, and assessing homeowners .39 cents on each $1,000 of assessed valuation, expires in 2014, Milliman said. If voters were to approve an extension of the same bond, a 10-year bond could garner the city $2 million without a net increase in property taxes.
The county has suffered about $2 million in damage – so far.
If it didn’t qualify under the federal emergency funding criteria, Curry County could get assistance under a “severe local impact” designation, Kendall said.
“I’m trying to get as much as I can to send them in hopes that someone recognizes we have a severe local impact,” he said. “Right now, I’m putting in claims for the larger stuff, like roads.”
The county got the process started the day after the storm hit by declaring a state of emergency to the state, Kendall said. Then, an initial assessment – what he’s compiling now – must be conducted.
If FEMA or the state Office of Emergency Management believe the county might qualify, it then conducts its own preliminary damage assessment. From there, work can begin.
Even other agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, can help fill in gaps with low- to no-interest loans.
Budgets might be stinging but, in the end, no one was injured.
“It was a heck of a drill,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “It showed us the city manager and his staff are ready to deal with this problem. We have to congratulate you for pulling off this disaster (recovery) very well.”
Councilman Dave Gordon agreed.
“I’m surprised there wasn’t any greater damage,” he said. “I know that took a lot of hours. Great job.”
“You can see it in their eyes,” Councilman Kelly McClain said. “They’re exhausted. It’s been a very impressive thing to watch. I’m very impressed with my city.”
“At the time, it seemed like the whole town was a hot spot,” Milliman said. “The 6.72 inches (of rainfall) doesn’t tell the story. We had periods of heavy rains that quickly overwhelmed our system.”