WELLSVILLE - A pair of public meetings was held Thursday in Wellsville, at 1 and 7 p.m., for village residents to learn more about the emergency action plan for the Wellsville flood control system that was recently approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Dennis Tomcik, field operations branch chief from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, provided information and answered questions, along with village Mayor Susan Haugh and Fire Chief Bill Smith.
Smith provided a brief history and synopsis of the flood control system, which was constructed in the late 1930s. He reminded attendees that the system is more than just the floodwall gates on Lisbon Street, but also includes an earthen dike that runs the length of the village along the Ohio River, as well as a pair of pump stations.
Wellsville Village councilman John Marrow looks on as Fire Chief Bill Smith points to items of interest on a flood survey map of the the village during a meeting Thursday afternoon outlining Wellsville’s new flood emergency action plan. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Though Smith expressed his confidence in the integrity of the system presently, he noted that time has caught up with its components. "The reason why we're working on this project is because everything we have is 1940 vintage," Smith said. "The life expectancy on our system was only for 50 years, and we're definitely beyond that."
Though Smith emphasized that it has worked every time it has been needed over the more than 70 years it has been in use, that doesn't negate the need for repairs and equipment upgrades.
"We want to be proactive," Mayor Haugh said in agreement. "We don't want to wait until it doesn't do its job."
Having an approved emergency plan for Wellsville makes the village eligible for government grants, such as the Surface Water Improvement Fund, that can be used to pay for repairs and updates, Smith said. Only one pump per station is currently operational (there are six in all). Repairs for the failed pumps would cost upwards of $50,000 each, partly due to their age, though Smith says replacing them would be even more costly.
During his review of the approved emergency action plan (EAP), Tomcik said he was confident that Wellsville would now be able to secure the money needed to complete the repairs and updates that will make the village eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's RIP, or Rehabilitation and Inspection Program.
Wellsville's previous participation in RIP allowed village residents living behind the floodwall and levee to forego flood insurance, a situation that has not existed for several years. Tomcik said a lack of maintenance over the course of several years allowed the flood system to fall into disrepair, resulting in intelligibly for RIP.
The village must now go through a process of being revalidated, after which it will qualify again. "I feel relatively confident that after a two-to-three-year period, we'll be able to go through the required fixes and be back ahead of where we were," he said.
The EAP itself includes a survey map, contact list and flowchart outlining the chain of notification in the event of a flood emergency, along with sections on preparedness, emergency detection and public notification, and evacuation routes and plans.
Tomcik recommended that the EAP be reviewed on an annual basis to keep all information up-to-date, reflecting changes to local roads and updated contacts of new elected officials. Copies of the EAP will be in the hands of those officials and emergency personnel, as well as being available for review at the Carnegie Library.
Tomcik and Haugh made a point of thanking James J. Taylor of Affordable Maps and Research in Wellsville, who was present at the meeting, for completing the floodwall survey map that was used by Tomcik, Haugh and Smith during their completion of the EAP. According to Tomcik, the work carried out by Taylor and his mother, Bonnie Taylor, saved the village $15,000.