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Rutherford mayor hopeful county can help with flooding issue

By Crystal Burns


Rutherford Mayor Sandy Simpson is hopeful the town will get relief from flooding soon.

Sections of town endured dramatic flooding Sunday, May 17 when rain washed out a culvert and flooded South Trenton Street. Cost to repair the culvert and street is estimated at $10,000.

While Simpson and the Board of Aldermen may not be thrilled over the cost, they are grateful for it. As she explained to the board at the town’s May 18 meeting, the Gibson County Highway Department has offered to tackle the project, providing materials at cost and not charging the town for labor.

“We have the money in state street aid to do it, and we need to do it,” Simpson said.

The Highway Commission must vote to approve the project at its June meeting before any work can begin, but Simpson said her contact there told her that it’s something the department does for cities all the time.

The board voted unanimously to purchase the materials from the highway department and have its employees do the work if the commission approves.

Simpson said part of the problem seems to be a large ditch that some residents have attempted to stabilize the banks by filling with limbs and other debris. A woman living on Taylor Street said her home was nearly flooded May 17. She has cleaned out the ditch on her property, which Simpson thanked her for and said the street crew would try to get to the ditch on the other side of the bridge as soon as it’s dry enough.

The city, however, is limited in what it can do because the state has identified what locals call a ditch as a blue-line stream. A blue-line stream is one which flows for most or all of the year and is marked on topographic maps with a solid blue line.

“We cannot dig that ditch out, but we can do some things to stabilize that bank a little bit, which we had planned on doing before this came about,” Simpson said.

Simpson also addressed paving on Trenton Street, the intersection of Mill and Cox streets, and Smith Street. She said the town could piggyback on a paving bid with the county, but the cost would still be “astronomical.” She said the county estimated about $500,000.

Water leaks – Water and flooding were themes of the May 18 meeting. Fire Chief Rob Rahm reported a water leak at the fire station. He said he’s waiting on dry weather to dig up and replace the pipe. He hopes to use city equipment to cut down on costs.

Water & Sewer Supervisor Eddie Watkins said a homeowner on Callis Street reported a water leak there Wednesday, May 13. The leak was in a service line off the main and flooded the road. Watkins and his crew repaired the leak and reopened the road the following day.

The board agreed to one-time sewer bill adjustments for those citizens that fill up their swimming pools. To make the adjustment, employees read the citizen’s meter before the pool is filled and after it’s filled.

The board also approved opening the Rutherford swimming pool even if the governor doesn’t lift restrictions on gatherings of 10 or more people. Simpson said the town needs to run the pool with chemicals this summer so that it won’t be “in a mess” next year.

Rutherford spent about $30,000 repairing the pool last summer.

SRO – Eddie Pruett, director of the Gibson County Special School District, and Terry Cunningham, director of finance and operations, addressed the board about a potential partnership to fund a school resource officer (SRO) at Rutherford School.

“We live in an area where you don’t think anything is going to happen, but you just never know when something might happen,” Pruett said.

Governor Bill Lee is pushing for more SROs and has grants available to cover up to $35,000 of an officer’s salary and benefits. The district has received the grant. Pruett and Cunningham said they expect total cost of the SRO position to be a maximum of $55,000. They asked to split the amount not covered by the grant 50-50 with the town, which would be a max of $10,000 each.

“It’s a good opportunity to have someone there full time,” Pruett said.

Although the board did not make a decision, Simpson recommended that the town cut the $4,000 it’s currently spending on basic AirEvac subscriptions for citizens and put that money towards the SRO’s salary. Board members seemed to agree

“We’ve got to take care of our kids, and that’s all there is to it,” Alderman Mike Hensley said.

The board will have budget meetings Tuesday, May 26 and Tuesday, June 2 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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