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Nederland City Council candidates talk drainage concerns, solutions

NEDERLAND — The two men vying for an opening on the Nederland City Council feel the city’s drainage has either “room for improvement” or is “not up to par” in all areas, making it a high priority concern.

How Ward 3 voters feel each can best tackle their worries may be a separating factor in next month’s election.

The council opening follows the decision of current seat holder Emmett Hollier to vacate the spot as he pursues a run for Jefferson County Commissioner Precinct 2.

Kevin Smith and Randy Sonnier qualified for a special election July 24.

Early voting begins July 7 and runs through July 20, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with the exception of July 13 and 20, which are open for early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hollier maintains his seat until voters select a replacement.

Smith said he has lived in Nederland his whole life and notes the area around South 17th Street and Avenue N has the worst drainage issues in Ward 3. In talking to residents in the neighborhood, he said certain households have flooded a half-dozen times.

“I can’t tell you all the details of what needs to be done, but I guess there is a drainage pipe that needs to be cleaned out,” he said. “If we have somebody that is flooding over and over in their house, that should be a top priority on a five- or six-inch rain event.”

Smith recognizes Nederland staff members cannot prevent rain events that follow named storms like Harvey and Imelda, but feels leadership needs to prioritize budget allocation for areas that need help the most.

“To me, there should be a priority list of who floods the most, what areas and what can we do to go fix these things,” Smith said. “Do we have the engineering support to back up these top areas and what needs to be done? Work that in the budget as a priority.”

Sonnier noted South 17th Street and Avenue K have been an issue since the neighborhood was developed and needs to be corrected.

“Currently the city has committed funds to conduct a study to remedy the situation,” Sonnier said. “Avenue A and 37th Street have also had issues with many of these remedied with additional studies forthcoming.”

Sonnier did say moving forward in Ward 3, the city has planned work in the following areas to positively impact 880 Nederland residents:

  • Intersection of Avenue M and Hill Terrace to the intersection of Hill Terrace and Hill Dale
  • Intersection of Avenue M and South Hill Dale to the intersection of North Hilldale and Hill Terrace

Solution strategies

What is often overlooked, according to Sonnier, is knowing a study is the first step in any engineered design change. What residents don’t want, he said, is to make a quick fix to correct a small area of Nederland and the outcome creates an issue for a much larger area.

“We must continue working on the acquisition of federal funds and grants wherever possible,” he said. “Current repairs are being worked with post-Harvey federal funding received due to diligent work by the City with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If elected I will ensure we research all grant possibilities/federal funds for a two-fold outcome: Improved drainage while doing our best to maintain a consistent tax rate for the citizens.”

Smith, a refinery superintendent at ExxonMobil, said his facility runs cameras in process sewers and storm sewers to locate potential blockages that might just need to be dug out.

“Running cameras is simple technology that is not expensive,” he said. “I don’t know if the city has that or if we hire people to do that. That is something I would definitely put on the list to invest in or find a service that rents and comes out and does it. It is a pretty simple process of running it in the sewer for as far as you want. You can see it on a monitor. It’s a pretty good technology.”

Sonnier said while the City of Nederland diligently vets the drainage plan of proposed new residential areas, he recommends the developer provide a third party engineered drainage plan for review.

“While new homes are a positive — with new families to the area, increase of tax revenue, etc. — we want to ensure any possible flooding issues are mitigated up front,” he said. “For existing neighborhoods, which make up the overwhelming majority of our city, we must continue to conduct drainage studies in conjunction with DD7 and act on these findings.”

Background

Sonnier, 60, has lived in ward 3 for more than 31 years and is employed with the Total Port Arthur refinery as the industrial purchasing manager.

Smith, 56, has lived in ward 3 for more than 23 years and is a refinery superintendent at ExxonMobil.