Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

July 17, 2013

Olive Hill citizens frustrated by report

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

July 17, 2013 — Three years have passed since the devastating flooding in Olive Hill. For many in the community, however, the memories of losing everything are still fresh in their minds.

This was evident last Tuesday night as scores of citizens turned out to hear options for preventing future flooding, as well as to receive answers as to what caused these tragic events.

On both fronts, the overwhelming sentiment from those in attendance was one of anger and disappointment after hearing the presentation.

Specifically, community members strongly expressed their frustration that regular removal sediment from Tygart’s Creek was not among the proposed mitigation alternatives.

“The former mayor sat there and told us that 6,500 dump truck loads of dirt were taken out of the creek after the flood. You’re telling me all that dirt didn’t have anything to do with the flooding?” asked Tyler’s Pizza owner Carolyn Callihan.

"In my opinion, the 6500 loads of dirt that came out did help us keep from flooding afterward," Mayor Kenny Fankell said.

Stantec’s Jonathan Keeling repeatedly reminded the emotionally-charged crowd that the mitigation study and the causation study are separate projects and that the causation study has yet to be completed – a revelation that surprised many in attendance.

“I don’t understand how the Kentucky League of Cities can deny so many insurance claims based on a causation study that isn’t even finished yet,” said local insurance agent Donny Lykins.

Lykins is the only individual whose insurance claim was approved. He received $159,800 in February 2011 for damages that the flooding caused to his business on Railroad Street.

Keeling also indicated that specific flood mitigation options that his firm was asked to research were determined during discussions with key city personnel.

Those decisions were made by former mayor Danny Sparks and former city clerk Cheri James, according to Keeling.

Of the presented flood mitigation options, Council member Jerry Callihan took specific issue with the levee/ wall option, pointing out that building such structures would create significant flooding for those outside the city limits.

“You’re destroying lives upstream to fix a problem downstream,” said Callihan.

As the hearing drew to a close, local dentist Kevin Jordan put words to the frustration that marked the evening for those in attendance.

“It looks like they’ve found a new way to waste $300,000 in grant money,” said Jordan.

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.