Howard Nabors, Franklin County’s new public works director is already facing a number of challenges.
Nabors told commissioners that flooding was a problem in several areas of the county during heavy July rains. Commissioner Cheryl Sanders agreed with him and said, “The city of Carrabelle was completely inundated.”
Carrabelle’s sewer system was temporarily overwhelmed by flooding on July 22 forcing the dismissal of The Nest children’s summer activity program and leading to an advisory not to use washing machines or toilets until floodwaters subsided.
Sanders said flooding occurred between Putnal and Franklin streets and in front of the old Junior Food Store in Lanark Village; at the site of the sharp curve at site of the old El’s Court Motel between Carrabelle and Lanark; and at “Smokey Hollow” on the eastern edge of Carrabelle.
Nabors said Hog Wild Barbeque east of the Tillie Miller Bridge was “completely flooded out.”
Commissioner William Massey, who is employed by Carrabelle’s public works department, said the restaurant flooded during the July 22 deluge. He told commissioners he installed a pump to help owner Ken La Paz, remove floodwater from the eatery and cleaned ditches in the area. He said Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) did not respond to a request for help in clearing the ditches on the state right of way.
Nabors said there was also flooding at Gilbert Street and Third Street at US 98 in Eastpoint.
Sanders said undergrowth in the state right of way is creating a problem for the county.
“We’ve got a problem,” she said. “We can clean out all of our ditches but the state ditches need to be cleaned out. We need to contact the DOT and tell them the whole county needs to be done.”
Massey said the ditches east of Hog Wild are blocked up all the way to the river.
Commissioner Pinki Jackel asked why Transfield Services, the contractor charged with maintaining the state right-of-way has not been cleaning along US 98 in Franklin County this summer. “I’m not seeing Transfield in the county as much,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Sanders said that beginning in September 2012; Transfield only mows a six-foot strip along the state right-of-way twice a year, in March and December.
In the past, the state mowed the shoulder completely several times a year. After a number of meetings with representatives of the Florida Wildflower Foundation and the Panhandle Wildflower Alliance in 2012, the DOT announced the policy of reduced mowing in Wakulla, Franklin and Gulf counties to protect native plants and migrating butterflies.
Wakulla has since increased the mowed area on roadsides to eight feet to improve roadside visibility.
In June, when the change to the mowing schedule was explained to commissioners, both Sanders and Commissioner Smokey Parrish expressed concerns about visibility and wildlife suddenly entering the roadway from the shoulders.
On Aug. 6, commissioners instructed County Planner Alan Pierce to send a letter to DOT and Transfield requesting that ditches in the state right-of-way be cleaned countywide.
Commissioner Noah Lockley said his district flooded between 24th and 25th streets but the problem was a blocked culvert and not closed ditches.
Nabors said county crews had cleaned out many ditches and replaced some old metal culverts and agreed that DOT was not responsive to requests for help. He said the county has no oyster shell on hand to use for repairs and he is uncertain when shell will be available.
Nabors said the heavy rain has also caused a serious problem at Carlton Street in Lanark Village, which is currently closed because it may be unsafe.
Pierce said, for about 10 days, water has been heard running under the street.
“They’re afraid that the road is being undermined,” he said. “We don’t know what it is. It could be an old culvert we don’t know about, an old US Army pipe, a spring, it could be a sinkhole, it could be anything. Because of the sound, we’re afraid that the road might collapse.”
Nabors said an adjacent house has shifted on its foundation. He said the road must be cut to determine what is happening.
Pierce said the former Lanark Village Water and Sewer has no pipes in the area. He said the area is underlain with limestone so a sinkhole could form there.
Nabors told commissioners at the Aug. 6 meeting, that he has two job openings in his department. The commission voted unanimously to allow him to advertise for the positions.
Jackel asked if the county public works crews would be at full capacity after the hires. Nabors said five crews are working in the county now and the two new employees would be alternate inmate crew supervisors. He said the county didn’t have enough trucks and equipment to run more crews.
Jackel suggested an additional crew could be added if another truck was purchased.
Jackel asked if a foreman’s position already advertised had been filled.
Nabors replied that Tommy Sadler was the best person for the job because he had worked with the road department for 25 years. He said he is waiting to see if Sadler can be recertified to supervise inmates. Nabors said Sadler lost his certification after being disciplined for using county equipment and state inmates to make repairs on private property.
“I want to do the right thing and wait until it’s all said and done with Tommy,” Nabors said. “All this took place with the inmates before I took over. I’ve heard five or six things. I’ve heard it was a load of dirt, then I heard it was a piece of bed iron he picked up off the side of the road.”