Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Projected rains come one year after heavy flooding in Columbiana County.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Darren Dodson was watching television on the job and for a good reason.
The Weather Channel and CNN on Monday were estimating the amount of rain that might hit Columbiana County later this week.
"They're talking one to two to up to eight inches," Dodson said.
At the time, Hurricane Katrina was moving east of New Orleans, leaving the county on the western side of the storm's projected path.
"We're on the good side of the system," said Dodson, who became the director of the county's Emergency Management Agency July 1.
Any problems from Katrina will be Dodson's baptism as EMA director.
A series of rains that included the remnants of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan caused more than $10 million in damage in the county between Aug. 27 and Sept. 27 in 2004.
Dodson had already checked with local governments to make sure they were prepared. The biggest problem to appear so far was that "Salineville may be short on sand bags," Dodson said.
Disaster response operations are new to Dodson, who retired after serving in the security services in the U.S. Air Force. He calls Chicago home but moved to Negley so his wife could be closer to her family.
Since taking office, he's halfway through an update of the county's all-purpose disaster plan.
From the practical standpoint, Dodson said, "We're trying to do everything we can to make people's lives as simple as possible."
The flooding in 2004 was primed by heavy rains from Florida in May and June that helped to saturate the ground.
Dodson said the high temperatures and lack of rain this summer left the ground hard so any rainfall from Katrina may run off.
County officials said that the only remaining issue from 2004's flooding is the possible demolition of 28 flood-damaged homes.
Pam Dray, a coordinator in the county's development department, said 18 homes in Lisbon are valued at $995,355, and 10 homes in the rest of the county are valued at $688,420.
Commissioners Jim Hoppel and Sean Logan said the problem is that the state wants the county to pay 25 percent of the demolition cost. The county budget is tight as it tries for a sales tax this November needed to run existing county operations.
In the past, Logan said, in-kind services from the county engineer's or prosecutor's offices could be used toward the county's share of demolition-related costs. Some federal funds that could have been used to pay the county's share aren't available, he added.
Another problem, said Dray, is that if homes are demolished, the land becomes the property of the subdivision. Construction is permanently banned on the land. That prevents rebuilding which might flood again, but it also leaves subdivisions with the maintenance of vacant lots that can't be used.