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City awarded $636,500 in Golden LEAF money

By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter

Whiteville’s flood relief efforts will see a big financial boost in the coming months, as the Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded the city $636,500 in funding for disaster recovery.

The announcement came just a few days after State Sen. Danny Britt and Rep. Brendan Jones met with local officials to discuss flooding in downtown Whiteville.

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors voted on Dec. 7 to approve the grant request. The money will be used for several projects, including $236,500 for equipment replacement/disaster recovery, and $400,000 for improvements to the Downtown Municipal Service District storm water rehabilitation.

The city is replacing a generator, three police cars and two public works vehicles that were damaged during Hurricane Matthew. The city had inadequate generators to run its emergency operations command post during the period after storm, and several vehicles were flooded or damaged during the flooding.

The city also recently completed a storm water study that identified several chokepoints in downtown Whiteville. Much of the storm water runoff in the entire city flows through downtown, which is the lowest point in the city. During the meeting with Jones and Britt, City Manager Darren Currie detailed how the city’s drainage system was probably “state of the art in its time,” but repairs, broken lines and aging pipes have combined with a massive increase in the amount of paved and non-permeable surfaces to slow or in some cases prevent storm water runoff. A number of places in the city have larger pipes feeding into smaller pipes, Currie explained, leading to additional blockages and backups that in turn cause flooding from Soules Swamp through downtown to Mollies Branch and the west side.

The disaster recovery grant funds will be used to improve the storm water infrastructure in the Downtown Municipal Service District, City Spokesman Hal Lowder said. The storm water study that identified the choke points was conducted using previous Golden Leaf funds in the amount of $150,0000.

After Hurricane Matthew The North Carolina General Assembly responded with two pieces of legislation to support disaster recovery that included a total of $55 million appropriated to the Golden LEAF Foundation. The Foundation was asked to process applications and distribute disaster relief funding to qualified grantees quickly and efficiently without duplicating the efforts of other funding resources.

"On behalf of The City of Whiteville, I would like to thank the Golden LEAF Foundation and our Legislative Delegation for their assistance," Currie said.

Stuart Rogers