This November, the citizens of Columbia County will be asked to vote for a proposed $44 million dollar Capital Improvement Bond Referendum paid for by a 1-mill property tax increase. Included in the list of projects are Bowen Pond and Mullins Pond, as well as other projects related to water resources.
While the homeowners have expressed a keen interest in knowing the facts surrounding Bowen Pond, little has been said publicly about how and why Columbia County acquired this property. The public deserves a clear, factual explanation of the events that led Columbia County to acquire this property and how much money it has and will cost Columbia County taxpayers.
The citizens of Columbia County deserve a report that would include a history of the Bowen Pond, all communications, reports, recommendations, agreements and results of the due diligence performed prior to the land transaction. Included in this report should be any engineering and environmental reports, evaluations, recommendations and cost analysis related to the site. The report should be prepared and made available to the public prior to the bond referendum in November.
Public and private dams and retention/detention ponds serve this community as the first line of defense in flood protection. The health and safety of our community is protected by these very structures. A failure in any of these structures is not an option. The county needs to have a thorough understanding of the locations and the current condition of all dams within the county. If both Bowen and Mullins Ponds need repairs in excess of one million dollars, one might ask, "What are the conditions of the other dams in the county? How much is that going to cost? Who will pay for it?"
As a member of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, I have learned that many communities regulate private and public dams through their county engineer. These counties have established policies and procedures to regulate and maintain the dams. These programs enable a county to manage the overall network of dams in a community and in case of emergency, provide the needed information to make critical, real time decisions.
Therefore, I call on Columbia County to prepare a Columbia County Dam Safety Report. We need a complete understanding of the current conditions, recommendations for repairs, status of repairs, nonconformities, costs and emergency actions plans of these important flood control devices.
In the interest of public safety and open, transparent government, providing the Bowen Pond Report and the Columbia County Dam Safety Report will go a long way in establishing voter confidence and trust.
Scott Nichols is a Democratic candidate for the District 1 seat on the Columbia County Commission.
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