SF still dealing with storm damage
Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2009 10:44 am
By CHRIS MENEES
Messenger Staff Reporter
Last month’s ice storm is long gone, but the memory of it lingers in South Fulton.
The city, like others across Obion County, has been dealing with limb pickup in the three weeks since the devastating ice storm struck the area Jan. 26-27.
South Fulton city manager Jeff Vowell told the South Fulton City Commission at its session Thursday evening that the cleanup process has been slow, but city crews are making progress as they fan out to work all areas of the city.
Vowell said there is now the possibility of the city’s receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since a disaster declaration was made for Obion County. He is scheduled to attend a FEMA meeting March 24 in Union City to learn more about what assistance or reimbursement will be available.
He said the city may need to consider accepting bids from a contractor to pick up limbs if the city is eligible for FEMA assistance, but he said he will need to examine the budget to see what the city can afford in regard to the percentage it would have to pay. He did not suggest that anyone be hired immediately and said it’s “an avenue to pursue.”
Vowell said city crews are still documenting all of their runs to pick up limbs and all fuel expenses in the event the city can be reimbursed.
He also asked South Fulton residents to limit what they are placing curbside to storm debris at this time and to refrain from putting out throwaway items not related to storm damage. He said city crews currently spend one day working in one area of the city and then go to a completely different area to work the next day, which keeps the crews visible and ensures no residents feel left out of the cleanup process.
Vowell asked residents to be patient and said city crews are doing the best they can under some unusual circumstances.
“We’re going to get through this,” he said.
He said South Fulton residents who live in town and who are able to load their limbs onto a trailer are welcome to haul them to the staging areas at the old high school on Smith Street or the landfill, in the event they prefer not to wait for the limbs to be picked up curbside. He also expressed appreciation to Ronnie McKinney for the use of his land on Highway 45 as a staging area.
In response to an inquiry about residents being allowed to burn limbs, Vowell said city residents can burn limbs if they obtain the required permit from the city, while county residents can call a burn notice hotline for permission.
Vowell said many residents are not able to clear their debris on their own and still need help getting limbs to the street. Commissioner Charles Moody noted that South Fulton Baptist Church has been helping elderly residents who are unable to haul their limbs to the curbside, providing a service which has been greatly appreciated.
South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said the ice storm caught everyone off guard and city officials quickly realized the seriousness of the situation. He said there were concerns with the city losing its water supply and the water plant was one of the first areas where power was restored after widespread outages occurred.
Vowell also said he is getting a quote for the cost of outfitting the water plant to be compatible with a large generator, which would keep the plant operational during an emergency.
Crocker expressed appreciation to the many firefighters, police officers and public works employees who “pitched in” to assist those in need in the storm’s aftermath.
In a related matter, Vowell said the city’s storm sirens were knocked out during the ice storm and are not functioning. He said the city spent about $4,300 last year alone for various expenses related to the repair of the sirens, which are only a few years old.
He said he is getting an estimate of what it will cost to get the sirens functional again, which will also be submitted to FEMA, and will return to the commission to discuss options for the future. He said he is concerned about the continued expense of the sirens.
“They shouldn’t cost this much to operate,” he said.
In other business during Thursday evening’s meeting, which was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and with prayer led by Moody, the commission:
• Recognized the retirement of longtime South Fulton Fire Chief Tommy Smith, who was honored with a retirement dinner. Vowell said Smith gave 21 years of service to the city, which is “very much appreciated.”
Vowell said he has named David Wilds as the city’s new fire chief, adding that he believes he has many good ideas for the fire department.
• Heard from resident Chris Copelen, who inquired about city ordinances regarding unkempt property and junk vehicles. Crocker said there are ordinances in place to deal with unkempt property and suggested Copelen file an official complaint with the police department regarding specific property.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish a schedule of fees and fines for citations issued within the City of South Fulton. The new ordinance makes only one change to the existing ordinance regarding fees and fines. It changes the offense of improper registration to the offense of invalid registration, which will allow for those cases to be heard in city court in South Fulton rather than in General Sessions Court.
The fine for invalid registration will be $40 and the court costs $80.
• Approved Vowell’s request to increase the city manager’s spending limit to $5,000 rather than the $1,000 currently authorized without commission approval. Vowell said he understands the policy was put in place to keep management in check, but he said supplies and repairs for most everything simply cost more nowadays and the higher cap will still keep management in check while allowing operations to function more smoothly.
City officials will have to check to see if the spending limit was previously set by ordinance or by resolution and take the appropriate steps to officially make the change.
• Learned from Vowell that he has hedged 20 percent of the city’s natural gas for next year. As a result, he said he is optimistic about residents seeing reasonable gas rates next winter.
• Heard concerns from Moody in regard to motorists allegedly speeding and running a stop sign in the area of College and Harris streets. Crocker said police should be able to help with the problem.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.20.09
ice storm, South Fulton