Northern Solution flood control project nears final approval

By Diana Hutchison

It has been a long process to address the flooding problems in the industrial park near State Route (SR) 277 from approximately milepost 332 to Milepost 336. At the Snowflake Town Council meeting on Feb. 6, the council was updated on the Northern Solution project as well as other community projects.

In 2003, thunderstorms flooded SR 277 and damaged portions of the Apache Railroad south of the Snowflake Industrial Park. The town’s wastewater treatment plant, which is approximately half a mile east of the project area, is regularly threatened by floodwaters as well.

Robert Toy, town engineer and project manager for flood control projects, has been working on this project throughout the years and addressed the town council with an update on the resolution to the flooding problems.

The town was notified in 2016 that a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant to reconstruct the Northern Solution to FEMA standards would be funded with a grant in the amount of $420,000. Toy said, “I am pleased to report that the final step in all of this is the completion of the Northern Solution and we learned yesterday that FEMA has moved to the final steps of the grant.”

The improvements associated with the Northern Solution will remove that area from being in a flood plain and allow the potential for future development and growth. Current residents and businesses will also reap the benefits of not being required to have flood insurance. It is estimated that some in that area pay as much as $12,000 a year in flood insurance. Another benefit will be an increase in property values for that area.

“Town Manager Brian Richards has been instrumental, as he and Vice Mayor Ballard are the ones who have seen this through since the beginning. It’s nice to see this very complex and lengthy problem being resolved under their tenure with the town, which will leave future generations infrastructure that will serve as a foundation for growth,” said Toy.

The final hurdles include environmental impact studies that need to be completed but final grant approval is on the horizon. The town is optimistic that there will be no environmental or cultural findings during these studies given that the 2010 study for the Southern Solution portion of the project had no significant findings.

Flood control was not the only community project that the council was presented with. Sarah Brimhall with the Snowflake Heritage Foundation asked the council to address the need for repairs and maintenance of the historic Freeman Home located on Main Street. The foundation cares for and maintains other historic homes in the area but the Freeman home is the town’s responsibility. She expressed concerns over the need for the home to have the bricks sealed and other minor upkeep.  Town Manager Richards pledged to get with the foundation and address the concerns.

The council was also presented with a much-needed project for the Snowflake-Taylor Police Department (STPD). Although the STPD had funds budgeted for a new patrol car they have opted to instead purchase a used former Arizona Department of Public Safety vehicle from the state surplus sale and refurbish it. STPD Senior Sergeant Dan Rush, through extensive research, found a company in California that refurbishes police vehicles. This could save the town nearly $15,000. If this refurbishment is successful and the department is happy with the results, there is the possibility of refurbishing additional vehicles in the future. The council voted to approve this project.

Another project that was brought to the attention of the council was the possible lighting of the “S”. For many years it has been a Snowflake High School homecoming tradition to burn an “S” into the side of the hill on property owned by Brimhall Sand & Rock located at the edge of town in Snowflake.

Council member Byron Lewis was recently approached by Gary Brimhall, with the Snowflake Heritage Foundation and Brimhall Sand & Rock, about the project and the proposal to paint and light the “S” with a solar lighting system so that Snowflake pride can beam brightly around the clock.

Brimhall took to the podium to discuss the desire to create a Lighting the “S” campaign. “I think it would be a great addition to the community; we are proud of this town,” said Brimhall. Local solar power professionals, The Solar Exchange, have pledged to provide all materials for the project at cost and donate any labor involved. There was discussion on creating a Go Fund Me page to help rally the community to help with the project. No estimated costs have been calculated at this time. Matt Hamilton with the Solar Exchange was on hand and offered to create an official proposal and submit it at a future date to the council.

The next regularly scheduled Snowflake Town Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, in the council room located at 81 West First South in Snowflake.