Officials Meet With Residents Over Flooding
Upbeat Public Session in Lebanon Tempered by Concern for Future
West Lebanon — More than 60 people showed up at the Fireside Inn and Suites Wednesday night to discuss Lebanon’s response to the storms that racked up $6.5 million worth of damage to city infrastructure earlier this month.
The room was packed with city and state officials, elected representatives, nonprofit groups and residents of the city’s hardest-hit areas. The discussion itself was surprisingly upbeat for much of the evening, though some expressed skepticism when the microphones were turned off.
After the two-hour meeting drew to a close, John Simone, of Slayton Hill Road, stood face-to-face with City Manager Greg Lewis, asking if and when the city would help pay for the repairs to his driveway, which was washed out in the early July storms as well as Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Simone, who was told he would need to file a claim with the city and wait for a response, seemed lukewarm with the answer he got from city officials Wednesday night.
“It seemed to me they wanted to know what they did good, and I didn’t hear a lot of things I wanted to hear,” Simone said.
A nine-year resident of the road that experienced near-total destruction from the flash flooding, Simone said he won’t be satisfied until Slayton Hill Road is reconstructed with major changes to the drainage system. He said that one of the culverts uphill from his home should be replaced and upgraded at the very least, and even suggested building a bridge to carry traffic over the brook.
“I want to know what they’re going to do,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything about that culvert.”
Thomas Dubuque, also a long-time Slayton Hill Road resident, said he too came to the meeting last night with hopes of hearing a detailed presentation on what the roads’ reconstruction would entail.
“That was probably a little ambitious for me to think that they would have that together already, but I was hoping for a little more information on the rebuild,” said Dubuque. “They gave a little bit of a time table but they didn’t give any specifics on the road.”
Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos said at the meeting that surveying on Slayton Hill Road will soon draw to a close and reconstruction plans should be presented at a public forum in August. He said the city would then advertise for bids in September and would likely award a contract by October, when reconstruction would begin with the goal to complete the project — including a water main replacement — by the end of the year.
Dubuque said that as a result of the wash-out, he is now missing half of his lawn, some trees, his mailbox, his driveway, and a juniper bush. He said he has no idea yet how much it will cost to repair all the damage, but he’s still waiting on city officials to determine what kind of access they will need for a right-of-way when reconstruction starts.
“I can’t do anything until ... the city rebuilds the road,” he said. “That’s when my rebuild starts.”
Not everyone had criticism to share at the meeting. At one point, a round of applause was given to Public Works employees, who were commended by one Lebanon resident for their good-natured response to Slayton Hill Road residents during the recovery efforts.
Christopoulos presented data during the meeting, detailing historic nature of the rainfall totals that the city saw in the last two months. He said that the month of June had a “historical high” of 1.06 inches and a “historical average” of less than a quarter of an inch in the city, but this year there was more than six inches of rainfall during the month.
According to the fire chief, July had a historical high of about 3.5 inches and a historical average of about four-tenths of an inch, but this year — as of Tuesday — the month has brought more than 8.5 inches of rain.
“We’re seeing patterns that show a behavior that is dumping a lot more rain on us than we’re normally used to,” Christopoulos said.
Much of the meeting was spent with those in attendance broken out into several groups, with various city officials writing down suggestions and concerns from Lebanon residents on large easels. As the meeting ticked down to the final minutes, Christopoulos promised that the input would be taken into consideration.
“Certainly, you have my word that the notepads don’t just get thrown in the back of the car and rot until the next storm,” he said. “We’re going to take a look at this because we think it’s important.”
Ben Conarck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3213