City addresses stormwater issues

Published 11:00 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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With heavy rains the last few weeks, stormwater issues may have concerned some. 

At both a City Commission meeting and in recent conversation, the City of Winchester discussed how efforts have been made and continue to be made to address such matters. 

In the Winchester City Commission’s 2023 Strategic Work Plan, seven strategic areas were identified to address the short-term interests of the city. 

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Infrastructure was listed as the number one priority, followed by housing, quality of life, parks and recreation, and more. 

In further detail, the strategic work plan identified infrastructure as completing current road work projects and extensions, upgrading and expanding facilities while working on new buildings as a part of public works, and inventorying stormwater needs citywide while developing a replacement program and prioritizing projects. 

“We’ve done a lot,” said Mike Flynn, who recently stepped down as City Manager. “We continue to prepare and make plans.” 

Acknowledging that the Town Branch Stormwater Project involved a somewhat reactive approach following the 2021 flooding, Flynn pointed out that the project was a learning experience. 

“My direction to [the current] City Commission is you must start being proactive in these things,” he said. “I think it opened their eyes to a lot of the community’s needs.” 

Flynn spoke about the Town Branch Replacement Project. 

“They went ahead and made necessary repairs on the upper end of Town Branch up near the upper end of Broadway [Street] and Church Alley,” he said. “[They’ve] done significant structural repairs…[and] moved the stormwater system outside of the corner of the building [that] houses Family Dollar and ties into that portion of Maple Street.” 

Work on other areas of town has also been in development. 

“We’ve done work on the Winn Avenue corridor. There’s a project going on there right now,” he said. “We have expended probably…[about] in the neighborhood of $150 – $200,000.” 

As part of the Strategic Work Plan 2023, the Winchester City Commission listed developing a replacement plan for stormwater as a critical initiative. Budgeting will begin in the 2023 Fiscal Year, and the estimated completion year is the 2026 Fiscal Year. 

However, Flynn – who formerly worked for Winchester Municipal Utilities – noticed that certain events seemed to have changed over time. 

“From my perspective and what I see, the rain seems so much more intense for shorter periods, and it seems like flash flooding is much more prominent,” he said. “What that means for us is we’ve got to keep our systems clean and free of debris.” 

Current City Manager Bruce Manley concurred that frequently heavy rains could pose momentary troubles. 

Manley spoke of one recent date. 

“In about thirty to forty-five minutes, we got over three inches of rain,” he said. “When you look at stormwater plans, it’s designed to take the water where it needs to go, but it takes a while to do that…it’s [going to] puddle up a little bit, and then it drains out to where it needs to go.” 

Looking toward the future, the city plans to continue working toward stormwater and other infrastructure development. 

One way to do this is by creating a Stormwater Asset Plan for proactive reasons. 

Another is to look toward funding needs for projects, including possibly utilizing a grant writer—yet to be hired—who can assist both city and county governments. 

Conclusively, Flynn detailed the importance of infrastructure. 

“With the lack of proper infrastructure, all of your services falter, and stormwater definitely falls under that veil,” he said. “They did this [strategic work] plan in July of 2023, and eleven months later…they’ve hit every one of those outlined strategic plans.”