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Flooding fix underway in Galax

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City accepts bids for stormwater improvements and has begun housing rehab in flood-prone Bottom neighborhood.

By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
As another harsh winter threatens with unpredictable snow and rain in the Twin Counties, city crews are working hard to fix and restore the roads and stormwater system to benefit residents and business owners in the low-lying “Bottom” area of Galax.
At the Jan. 13 city council meeting, City Manager Keith Barker gave an update on the ongoing Bottom Neighborhood Revitalization Project.
“We are happy that we are moving through the project and getting close [to completion],” Barker told council.

This project has been a frequent topic within the community since its inception, as the city has budgeted and planned a course of action to fix and prevent problems with flooding in the Bottom area around Givens Street.
At almost any given rainy day in Galax over the years, Bottom area roads would accumulate water quickly because of the area’s bowl-like structure. Clogged and damaged pipes would drain slower than the rain fell — if they drained at all. After many rain storms, residents could walk out on their porches to find ponds sometimes deep enough to swim in.
The Bottom project, which was slated to begin last year, will be completed in three phases, first updating the neighborhood’s stormwater drainage system, then repairing the roads and finally restoring the houses and businesses that have been damaged by the frequent floods.
According to Barker’s notes in the meeting agenda, the city received bids on Jan. 9 for the stormwater improvements system along Shaw Street. Out of the six contractors who placed bids, the overall low bid was from Haymes Brothers Inc. From Chatham at $1.15 million. “It is within $50,000 of the engineers estimate, but over our project budget,” Barker said.
The highest bid was $2.4 million.
Going back to the original project plan, Barker noted that city crews had planned to perform some utility and street work. “However, we removed it and included it in part of the contract due to anticipated problems with coordination in the work,” he said.
To fill the price gap, the project will require that the city use part of  its allocated Virginia Department of Transportation repair funds in next year’s budget. The city will be required to submit bid information to VDOT for review and approval prior to going under contract.
“We are very happy with the bid, it is very close to our budget,” Barker said.
Moving on to housing renovations, Barker told council that the city had completed renovation of one house and construction of a new house. “We are under contract on four additional houses for renovations and we are completing the contract for another new house,” he said in his report.
The city crews have also started work on a commercial building, are under contract for work on a second and are receiving bids for a third. One business owner completed renovations using his own funds.
To complete his report, Barker extended a special thanks to Mike Woodel for his work during the week of Christmas last year. “We had some additional water [around Givens Street], and we were convinced it was a pipe we could fix,” he told council.
In an email to The Gazette in December, Barker said that the city felt that other issues had been causing the additional flooding on the block between Shaw and Eastview streets.
“Our crews have dug out a portion of the line and we believe there are two failures, more than likely caused by something in the pipe. We found a stormwater drop that we were unaware was there and are working back towards Givens St. to make a repair,” he wrote.
After days of searching for the problem, the crew found a blockage in front of Southern States. “We lifted two buckets full of old tires, stumps, toys... and finally got that pipe flowing,” Barker told council. “Of course, that shows the shape of our stormwater pipes.”
Mayor C.M. Mitchell complimented the crew on its work, having seen it first-hand. “I commend them. They are dedicated. One of the best crews I’ve ever worked with.”