Rebounding from the flood

Aug. 10, 2013 @ 10:17 AM

The flooding that pummeled parts of Chapel Hill June 30 drove more than 150 families from their homes. For many, the disruption continues as they seek new permanent housing or wrestle with repairs to water-damaged homes and possessions.

Town officials have worked hard to help disrupted residents and to clean up the mess left behind both by the flood waters and by the mounds of water-soaked and molding material tossed from flooded homes and businesses.

But the town itself was also a major victim of the flood waters, and everyone from top officials to billing clerks have soldiered on admirably to adjust to the upheaval of normal operations.

There have been some fortunate coincidences. In a town that still reflects the rhythms of the academic calendar, summer is a more tranquil time. Hence, the Town Council historically has taken its own summer break and won’t meet again until September.

A good thing, that, since the Town Council chambers were among the hardest hit part of Town Hall in the flooding.  By Sept. 9, when the council next meets, it should have temporary meeting space – probably in the county’s Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.  County Commissioners’ Chairman Barry Jacobs was quick to offer his town colleagues the space which, although smaller than the Town Hall meeting chambers will still be relatively convenient for most residents.

As officials map out repairs – expected to cost more than $400,000 and to take up to a year – they have taken to heart the old political adage to “never let a crisis go to waste.” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told The Chapel Hill Herald’s Greg Childress recently that this could be an opportunity to update the design of the council chamber to take advantage of technology that’s come into common use since the Town Hall was built.

The Business Management Office, also hard hit by the flooding, could also see an upfit to “improve customer service and improve the efficiency of the space,” according to Ken Pennoyer, director of Business Management Services.

While their area is being rehabbed, the business management folks will be working in and serving residents from temporary quarters at University Square.

All in all, town officials seem to have rebounded quickly and remarkably smoothly from the deluge. But we know it has not been without a lot of hard work, flexibility and perseverance on the part of employees, and for that they deserve our thanks and, probably from time to time during this transition, patience.