Flood Meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2010

Batesville city engineer Blake Mendrop (from right) and alderman Teddy Morrow locate property on a proposed Flood Insurance Rate Map for two Batesville ladies who were among the few who attended Wednesday’s meeting. Mendrop is gathering data to present to FEMA in hope of removing some areas of the city from high flood risk designation.

Citizens’ interest barely a trickle at flood ‘open house’

By John Howell Sr.

Batesville residents stayed away in droves from Wednesday’s “Flood Risk Open House.”

“I’m really surprised,” said Mississippi Flood Plain Manager Al Goodman. “I thought there would be 50 or 60 people.”

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The handful of Batesville residents who did attend the meeting at the Panola Emergency Operations Center learned about changes that could require flood insurance with annual premiums from $1,000 to $2,500 annually for many city homes.

 The changes would come with the Flood Map Modernization Program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, designed to reduce excessive losses from repetitive claims, according to a statement from the Mississippi Flood Map Modernization Initiative. The map proposed for Batesville reclassifies large areas within the corporate limits of Batesville as “high-risk” for flooding.

“Do outreach to your citizens; they need to be prepared,” Goodman told a group of local public officials who met with representatives of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), FEMA, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) prior to the open house.

Finalization of the new Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) proposed for Batesville and Panola County is a lengthy process that began this fall and will likely be completed early next year. Wednesday’s public meeting opened the door for challenges to the map from citizens and municipalities, a process launched in early November by Batesville City Engineer Blake Mendrop.

Mendrop last month proposed city-funded surveys to establish “monumentation” markers on public property to determine elevations in the affected areas. Owners of homes and businesses could use the markers for their own surveys to document property elevation.

The proposed reclassification could include areas along Sand Creek (designated as Whitten Creek Tributary on the preliminary FIRM, including strip of commercial buildings on Commerce Street and from the southeast quadrant of the 6-51 intersection to the east end of the Eagle Crest Shopping Center (Tsunami Restaurant to Domino’s Pizza). On the opposite side of Highway 6, the flood zone is limited to a small area that takes in the front of several buildings including the Smith Cleaners location there.

Ironically, the newly-proposed flood zone takes in only the rear of the building at Smith Cleaners’ Thomas Street location where overflow from street flooding has been a recurring problem during heavy rains at the front of the building. The newly proposed zone includes all of the Downtown Square, and areas in the vicinity of the Sand Creek (Whitten Creek Tributary) as it intersects the town. That would mean Bates Street, a portion of Church Street, Potts Street, Creek Drive, Pamela Street, most of Court Street, Ward Avenue, Acorn Lane, Park, Georgia Watt, Broadway and Short Streets on the upstream side of the railroad.

On the creek’s downstream side of the railroad, the newly-proposed flood zone would include Boothe, Atwell, College, a portion of Panola Avenue, Kyle, Brooks, a portion of Baker, Harmon Circle, Brinkley Lane, North, Broad, among other areas.

The small group of Batesville citizens who attended Wednesday’s meeting included three residents of Acorn Lane who have repeatedly sought city help for streambank erosion along Sand Creek. Pat Ross, Carol Roberson and Juanita Bopp said that they plan to attend Tuesday’s meeting of Batesville’s mayor and aldermen to seek city help again.

Keith Heafner of Heafner Motors reviewed the maps which indicate that the older building on Highway 6 West which houses Hallmark Ford would be included but not the new building which houses the automotive dealer’s GM and Chrysler sales and shop facilities.

Pride Hyundai owner William Pride also attended. He said that he learned that the elevations established when the building permits were allowed for his building’s construction could also allow the structure to be removed from the proposed flood hazard area.

Robert Gladney, who owns land on the north side of Highway 6 near Heafner Motors was among citizens who came to review the map as was Bates Street resident Charles Scruggs.