$17K taxpayer money wasted; Lessons learned?

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, April 13, 2017

Editor’s Note: The following text was read at the April 3 Polk County Board of Commissioner meeting.

Last BOC meeting we heard from county engineer that DEQ (DENR) has just required a change in figures being used in the ongoing ‘Comprehensive Stability Evaluation of Turner Shoals Dam.’ DEQ requires county go back and use the safe standard of ¾ Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) conditions.

What public did not hear, was this DEQ intervention would not have been necessary if engineers (Odom & AECOM) hadn’t reduced these PMF #’s down in the first place, all the way down to ½, back in July 2016. What the public was not reminded of was that we already paid extra $17K to AECOM, back in 2016, for that bad idea (reducing PMF to unsafe #’s), that just got tossed out today.

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My point tonight is that Polk County has got to do a better job handling (reading reports, managing, funding) and collaborating with dam safety officials on all Turner Shoals reports and projects. This is protecting the health, safety and welfare of your citizens.

This additional $17k now wasted, taxpayer’s money could have been totally prevented and this is how:

1) Why are we not getting clear, prior approvals, in writing, from DEQ/Dam Safety officials, for any big changes from the norm? Prior approvals for any dam safety activities is the correct procedure and being that the state just rejected county reduction of PMF to unsafe levels, prior approval for this action must not have happened.

2) Why we are not following the professional recommendations that AECOM came up with in the first place in the 2014Turner Shoals Dam Safety Inspection Report? Recommendation #11 speaks to using ¾ PMF to address dam safety modifications. So why did county approve to reduce the number to ½(PMF) and pay AECOM additional money to do so?

3) Why are we not paying attention to these professional, detailed reports that taxpayers are paying so dearly for? In the same 2014 Inspection report, which cost us $32K, it clearly states: ‘As a High-Hazard Dam, Turner Shoals requires a minimum spillway capacity of ¾ PMF.’ (Under Section 2.7.1 Probable Maximum Flood). How did county think, it was a good-safe idea to change this number?

4) When we fail to act on the dam safety studies that we pay for, they become outdated/irrelevant and we just have to pay for them again. Like in 2009, Polk County taxpayers paid Black & Veatch Engineers $9,132 for a Probable Maximal Flood Evaluation, then again in 2012; $18,800 to AECOM for Probable Max Flood Evaluation and now again in the ongoing $150K AECOM Comprehensive Stability Evaluation. Nevermind the $17K we already paid for nothing.

Going forward and in que is the next unaddressed concern: the still omitted #8 Recommendation to complete a Bathymetry Survey of sediment forces, pressing up against the dam before the design for safe reconstruction occurs. How is this going to be handled?

Sky Conard,Mill Spring, N.C.