After several weeks of back-and-forth between the Petal Board of Aldermen regarding a solution to flooding issues throughout the City of Petal, board members on Sept. 21 approved part of “The Steele Plan,” a comprehensive design to help alleviate that problem, particularly in Ward 1.
That measure is expected to aid stormwater runoff, by way of creating and maintaining ditches and channels, in three areas of the ward that become inundated after rainfalls: the area from George Street to Stevens Street, the area just north of Kola Street and the area from Williams Street to Woodside Drive. However, Ward 1 Alderman Gerald Steele, who proposed a draft of “The Steele Plan” some weeks back, said although he was thankful that ditch work had begun in several areas, the work was being conducted without his knowledge – and not in the phased order that he said was recommended by a recent engineer’s report.
“The work that’s happening is making things worse,” Steele told the board. “I don’t know who’s doing this, and I don’t know how they’re selecting these projects to get done, but I am the alderman of the ward, and I’m the one hearing about it, and it’s upsetting. Our job is to set policy, and I don’t know how to set policy to fix this problem if I don’t know what’s happening in my own ward.
“It needs to be addressed. I don’t know who is pushing for this work to be done, and I don’t know why these areas are being selected in the manner they are. From what I can tell, they’re illogical, and they seem to be making things worse.”
Steele said the work should start from the areas where water can exit, and work should proceed uphill from there. Otherwise, lower-lying areas from that location will be flooded as a result.
“If we start work at the top of the hill, and don’t take into consideration where the water’s going, it’s going into someone’s house most likely, and I have pictures to back that up,” Steele said. “So I need that to stop … and I need us to follow the plan.
“I know this isn’t the first time I’ve brought it up, but this is the first time I’ve brought it up publicly.”
Steele proposed having work done in the aforementioned three areas by December. Aldermen Craig Bullock, Steve Stringer and Mike Lott voted against Steele’s proposal because of doubts that the work could be completed in that timeline, making it a 4-3 vote in Steele’s favor.
Over the past 10 days, ditch work has been completed at the intersection of Ann Street and Old Richton Road, the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Kola Street, and on Bell Street.
“I wouldn’t go as strong as you were saying with the backing of the engineers,” Mayor Tony Ducker told Steele. “There’s three particular areas – I’ve made calls to the railroad, that we could get permission and bid out that work.
“The other one was a cut-through through the storage units (on Central Avenue) to Stevens Street.”
Mike Trest, director of the Petal Public Works Department, said his crew is in the process of maintaining Matthews Branch, where debris had clogged up several drainage points. Steele said although that method does help waterflow, most of that drainage goes down to Main Street, which then floods the areas of George Street, Stevens Street and Railroad Street.
“What I’m saying is … the engineer said that we need to start at the water exits and work our way uphill,” Steele said. “But what’s happening is that we’re up on the hill and just (cleaning out culverts).
“We need to prioritize … and I don’t understand why that work is being done. I presented a really logical plan, and we did talk about it with the engineer, and he did back me up.”
Ward 5 Aldermen Drew Brickson said Steele’s plan makes sense, given Brickson’s background with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Sometimes, it’s just having a plan,” he said. “I do agree fundamentally with the process and the sequence that he’s asking for.”
To view a copy of the Engineers report regarding flooding in the city, click here.