The City of Alexander City Public Works Department positioned bulldozers to begin working to correct drainage problems at Central Avenue and Lee Street but a protracted ADEM permitting process is delaying work.

Plans to begin diverting rainwater off city property onto a local businessman’s land at Central Avenue and Lee Street have been delayed while the City of Alexander City answers questions from the state about the project.

The city planned to begin work at the site late this week and public works department director and city engineer Gerard Brewer submitted a permit application to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

“The last permit I submitted was less exhaustive than this one,” Brewer said. “I sent it in and they sent back comments. ADEM wants to know everything on the front end, so unfortunately the process has been slowed. It’s a typical review process that is just more exhaustive.”

Brewer said work may be delayed several weeks while the city responds to ADEM.

“ADEM said they would like our response by Aug. 23 but we will have it done before then,” said Brewer, who has brought in Hagan Wagoner of the ProgreCiv Group to help speed the permit application.

Brewer said businessman Kenneth Ledbetter, who said rainwater coming off city property has done damage in the basement of his warehouse at the site, was understanding about the delay.

“I talked with Kenneth and let him know the situation,” Brewer said. “He was fine with it as long as we’re making the effort and we’re doing our best. That’s an understatement because we have rearranged everything about our schedule to get up there due to the urgency of the situation.”

Brewer said work on the city’s property will not affect the annual repaving and repair work on city streets scheduled to begin this month.

Ledbetter wants to invest $1 million to build 250 storage units on his 3 acres at the site but rainwater is running off higher-elevated city property on either side of his parcel.

The city moved bulldozers to the site this week in readiness to start work on its property.

“We planned to use a combination of diversion ditches and diversion berms, and stormwater and holding ponds, to keep water on our property,” Brewer said.

Ledbetter acknowledged he also must correct the grade of his property to help drain water away from his warehouse toward Russell Road. Contractor Roy Granger sold Ledbetter and the city their pieces of property then began clearing away rubble from demolished Russell Corp. buildings on city land and grading Ledbetter’s parcel.

Granger has brought in dirt to begin building up Ledbetter’s land.

“We want to divert as much water as possible toward Russell Road and to the ash pit on the other side,” Brewer said. “I think we can do it without cutting the road. I think we can channel it through existing crossings underground.”

In June, the council declined to act on a proposal brokered by late mayor Jim Nabors to give Ledbetter a half acre of city property to control drainage at the site in exchange for splitting the cost of materials to finish a large drainage ditch on the property line between the 3 acres already owned by Ledbetter and 3½ acres owned by the city. Ledbetter and the city would have paid $9,000 apiece to finish the ditch but the proposal died for lack of a second.

Heavy rain July 18-19 resulted in rainwater causing damage in the basement of Ledbetter’s warehouse.

A proposal to have the city correct drainage issues on its property and move dirt off its land at the site to Ledbetter’s parcel was taken off the agenda of the city council meeting Aug. 5 because Ledbetter said he didn’t need the dirt. Afterward, Ledbetter said councilmember Eric Brown, who was considered the swing vote, told him before the meeting he would vote against it, likely leading to a 3-3 tie and no decision.

Brown didn’t disclose what his vote was going to be but said a resolution wasn’t necessary because Mayor Tommy Spraggins and Brewer could direct city crews to correct drainage problems on city property to make it ADEM compliant.