Board weighs watershed dam funding & culvert issues
Jim Michael, Eastern Panhandle Conservation District Supervisor, asked the Morgan County School Board for their $1,000 annual contribution for Warm Springs Watershed Dam maintenance agreement at their December 6 meeting.
The Morgan County Commission, the Town of Bath and the Board of Education are each petitioned for a yearly $1,000 contribution as partners in the watershed maintenance. The Conservation District matches their payments.
A system of eight earthen watershed dams and surrounding areas along Warm Springs Run need maintenance work done annually, such as mowing, removal of fallen trees and debris, cleaning out pipes and painting risers and pipes. They hold an annual inspection so partners can see the sites and the work that has been done, Michael said.
In 2005, the agreement with the school system was updated, Michael said. They overlooked approaching the schools last year. He contacted School Treasurer Nancy White last school year about payment, but was told they couldn’t do anything then because it wasn’t in the budget.
School board president Laura Smith said the school board’s contribution was payable upon receipt of an invoice.
White said she wasn’t aware of their 2005 watershed maintenance agreement as it was done under the previous School Treasurer Jody Lucas. No letters of request or invoices for payment had been received since she had become treasurer in 2006.
Superintendent David Banks said there were records of their payments to the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District for dam maintenance for 2001-2005. In 2007, a payment of less than $1,000 was for equipment rental. No other payments had been made.
School Maintenance Supervisor Alston Yost visited a dam site two years before. There were downed trees and the overflow pipes needed cleaned out, he said. The area had seen minor flooding. He felt the $1,000 was a very worthwhile investment.
“If there’s a 100-year flood, the partners will save Berkeley Springs,” Yost said.
Board members didn’t question the work’s value, but had issues about the arrangements. David Ambrose felt the agreement was vague and thought someone was supposed to do a yearly presentation to the board with their funding request.
Board member Aaron Close thought the maintenance agreement was open-ended. If more work was needed done, did that mean they would return and ask for more money?
School board member Larry Omps wondered if in-kind donations of maintenance department labor could be used toward their contribution if they couldn’t afford it.
Smith questioned whether the project would lose matching monies if they did an in-kind donation instead of a monetary donation.
The student population decline had caused them to lose state aid, Ambrose said. Other organizations might be willing to contribute.
Michael said he would look into whether the matching funds were tied to donations from government entities.
“You’re probably the number one land user in the floodplain,” Michael noted.
Omps said that the dams wouldn’t just save the school system, but everyone in Berkeley Springs. Businesses benefited too.
Michael’s funding request will be on the December 20 meeting agenda.
Michael also told them to prepare financially to deal with culvert system issues in Warm Springs Run at Berkeley Springs High School. The stream was full of sediment. It was affecting the drainage pipes that feed water from the high school roofs into the run.
There was more than two feet of water and debris in some of the culverts.
Channel maintenance was a big future problem at the high school, he said.
The school system needed to clean out the stream and keep it stabilized.
The Eastern Panhandle Conservation District still had $5,000 in its account that could be put toward engineering a solution. They were also asking for technical assistance from the state, Michael said.
The roof drain in the north end of the run by the main building is blocked and choked by weeds, Maintenance Supervisor Alston Yost said. He tried unsuccessfully to get a rotor-rooter through it. That drain will have to be replaced.
The blockage is causing the water from the roof to run out onto the ground in front of the building into the parking lot. They’ve been putting cinders down on the area, he said.
Drains on the other side of the run used to be four feet up the hillside, but now sit at two and a half feet higher than the run, Yost said.
Culverts by the vocational building and cafeteria were operating at about half their capacity due to sediment.
Sediment is causing pending and swirling in places and water is moving more slowly. Below the last footbridge a manhole is also creating a swirling action in the main channel. The run has also changed its course.
Yost felt the sediment problems originated when new culverts were put in around 2004 during the high school renovations. The stream goes from a small channel to a 20-foot width for the length of the gymnasium parking lot and returns to a narrow width again.
They moved nearly eight loads of sediment from the run by the school cafeteria around five years ago, hoping it would resolve the problem, but it didn’t, Yost said.
He felt they needed a pond where they could dump the debris and sediment from the run.