Mayor Mike Cooper told the Covington City Council on Tuesday that his administration is moving “expeditiously” to remedy drainage woes in its historic downtown area after residents voiced concerns on the matter at the council’s January meeting.
Cooper said he requested a report from City Engineer Daniel Hill to determine what work needs to be done in the area, particularly on Columbia, Lockwood and Florida streets.
The recommendation, Cooper said, was to hire a subsurface utility inspection company that would be responsible for cleaning and removing debris from catch basins and drainage pipes; for inspecting downtown drains using closed-circuit television cameras to find potential pipe failures and connections that may be restricting water flow; and for mapping the drainage system to determine the size and type of drainage pipes and the direction of water flow in them.
Cooper said the project is estimated to cost just more than $100,000 and that money is available in the 2019 budget to fund it. He said inspection work would have to be done before any potential large-scale improvements to downtown drainage, and that contracting a company to begin the process now makes sense.
Hill is readying a quote package for companies interested in the job.
“The typical turnaround for quote requests to actual work is typically a month,” Cooper told the council. “So we’re hoping that work can start by the end of March or the beginning of April.”
Cooper said at the council’s January meeting that he was aware drainage in Covington’s historic commercial district was a growing problem, and several residents were on hand that evening to confirm it. One woman said the bottom floor of her Columbia Street home took on an inch of water during several recent heavy rains, and a homeowner on East Lockwood said 10 inches of water collected underneath his house during a downpour.
Cooper said then, and repeated on Tuesday, that the city has tackled numerous drainage projects during his nearly eight years in office, most recently allocating money for projects on the Mile Branch, Blue Swamp Creek, Patricia Drive Ditch and Simpson Creek. Those waterways were primary sources of floodwater that damaged more than 300 homes in March 2016, and addressing them first was a logical step.
Several council members questioned Cooper about how long the new process might take. District E Councilman Rick Smith said that likely would be determined by the types of problems an inspection uncovered, and the mayor agreed.
Hill’s report said there are 11 drain manholes, 55 drain inlets and more than 5,000 feet of drain pipe along the downtown sections of Columbia, Lockwood and Florida streets.
Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing the city to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with St. Tammany Parish Hospital to extend a water main to the facility that would meet greater need for water supply after a planned expansion to the hospital.
City Attorney Julian “Rod” Rodrigue told the council that a 12-inch water main would be installed to connect the hospital with a well at Hubie Gallagher Park on 15th Street. The new main would be the primary water source for the hospital, and would provide greater water pressure to other buildings on the existing 11th Street main, including a host of doctors' offices and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.
As part of the agreement, the city would engineer and install the water main, and St. Tammany Parish Hospital District No. 1 would fund construction. Rodrigue said hospital officials also have agreed to pay for modifications to a lift station on 8th Avenue made necessary by the hospital’s expected increase in water usage.
If the uptick in water consumption is greater than estimated, the hospital would pay for further upgrades to lift station as well, Rodrigue added.
St. Tammany Parish Hospital broke ground in November on a $54 million, four-story building that, with additional parking and other renovations, will total a $100 million expansion -- the largest for the public hospital in 16 years.