clogged culvert

Clogged culverts like this one on Pine Spruce Lane in Pinetop caused property damage when they overflowed, flooding nearby properties during the August 1 storm that hit Pinetop-Lakeside, dropping over four inches of rain and hail in a 45-minute period. Residents from Pine Spruce Lane in Pinetop came to voice their concerns over their street’s re-surfacing and drainage issues at the August 15 council meeting.

PINETOP-LAKESIDE – The freak storm which did so much damage on August 1 in the Pinetop-Lakeside area is still causing angst for some property owners. A total of 4.8 inches of rain fell during a 45-minute period and caused extensive damage to private property and to many public facilities, streets and roads within the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside.

A group of citizens showed up at the August 15 council meeting and four of those – Kim Isom, Jonathan Hanridge, Gene Irbstone and Kay Tsouhlarakis — who live on Pine Spruce Lane in Pinetop, each used their full three minutes for their comments at the call to the public.

Isom said that there has been a lack of maintenance for the drainage ditches and culverts on her street. She thanked the council for things happening on Pine Spruce Lane but said, “As a decision maker, it is nice to fund new projects, but I feel like the existing infrastructure may be neglected.”

Isom continued, saying she would like to see the engineering be re-done so that the street would drain properly, and said she hoped the council would revisit the issue to find capital to get movement on this.

Hanridge spoke next saying this is the second time damage has occurred for him. In 2004 he had damage but this time water actually came into the foundation of his house. He said that he had to call in a civil engineer to evaluate the damage and that there is also an emotional component to this as well. He said the ditches were blocked and there has been road trouble for years. Hanridge ended his time saying, “We need an immediate solution, not three summers from now.”

Irbstone said he has the same issue. “We also sustained damage from flooding and hail. The road is damaged; you cannot even know it is a roadway. It needs to be set up to drain away from our homes.” Irbstone also said, “Our property values are going down the tubes,” and invited the council to come out and take a look. In closing, he said, “We keep hearing something is going to happen but we need to see something agendized.” He added that the road may not have been engineered properly but that it was never maintained properly either.

Last to speak was Tsouhlarakis who said she had lived in her home for eight years. She said she loves the house and when she first came the road was not in that bad of a condition. She recalled fliers which were passed out in the neighborhood which said the road was going to be re-surfaced — the part of the road by the water tank; she said there was a delay and then nothing. She said kids cannot ride their bikes on the road due to pitting and not having a flat surface. She also expressed frustration over property values and thanked the council for listening.

Due to open meeting law rules, councils are not able to take action or comment on items presented at call to the public. They can direct staff to study the matter and reschedule for further consideration at a later date.

With the unanimous approval to pull the minutes of the August 2 town council emergency meeting from the consent agenda, Mayor Stephanie Irwin requested Public Works Director Matt Patterson provide an update on the storm damage.

Patterson said that three different crews had been hired and are on site — Mark Gardner with Apache Underground and Excavating of Lakeside and two crews from Lynn DeWitt of Navapache Construction in Taylor. Both brought out staff to study the flow rates off the side of Top of the Woods subdivision to determine if the original designs were correct, and if not, to see what adjustments need to be made to make them work.

Patterson said he called Woodson Engineering out of Flagstaff which had already been working on other projects for the town, and has done the same type of work for the Museum Fire and Coconino County. They arrived Aug. 5 and walked the sites with him advising that until an assessment is completed, the first thing thing to be done was to get the ditches back to where they were originally to make sure the drainage is working properly.

Mark Woodson addressed the council and referred to the August 1 storm as a 1,000-year event based on the uniqueness of the storm in relation to the national standards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is the standard used by FEMA and the insurance industry.

Using this same data from NOAA, Patterson said that Bill Best of Navajo County said that the sizes and conveyances of culverts of 30 years ago do not match the plans of today.

Woodson said they want to work within existing rights-of-ways and easements which do not currently exist. They are looking to see how they can get immediate access and have a long range access plan. Patterson also said that both Navajo County and Show Low had loaned them trucks and employees.

With regard to the Pine Spruce Lane issue, Town Manager Keith Johnson said that re-surfacing is not a budget item this year but they will jump on the drainage issue and get it done first. He explained that dollars for the August 1 emergency came out of the streets department and there is application for emergency funds through the state.

“If we cannot get it from the state, it impacts (the) paving (budget),” said Johnson.

Explaining that the town has applied for emergency-related state funding in the past, Johnson noted that in 2010 the town applied to the state for $50,000 for snowstorm clean-up. Finance Director Kevin Rodolph has worked with Navajo County on the current application for emergency funds and it was submitted on August 14. These funds come out of the Arizona Department of Emergency Management and Military Affairs.

“They will be here Wednesday (Aug. 21) and tour,” explained Johnson, “and we can show them and hopefully convince them to give us the dollars… $200,000 is the most we can get.”

“If we can feed that back into the budget we can continue the road projects for this year,” Johnson concluded.

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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