LUMBERTON — Lumberton can expect another disaster similar to Hurricane Matthew.
That was the message given to Lumberton City Council Wednesday by a consultant working on the city’s Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative plan.
“There will be another disaster. I bet my life on it,” said Lincoln Walther, a veteran hurricane recovery consultant from Florida. “I bet you will be hit again in 30 years.”
Walther is helping craft a recovery plan mandated by Gov. Roy Cooper as a means of helping six heavily damaged communities, including Lumberton and nearby Fair Bluff, with immediate and long-range Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.
Walther presented an overview of the Initiative on Wednesday during a Council Policy Committee meeting. The project is a collaborative effort between The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the College of Design at N.C. State University and federal, state, and philanthropic organizations working to help those six hard-hit communities.
The local recovery plan will address topics such as flood retrofits and economic assessment of historic downtown Lumberton, green space design, and implementation and housing strategies focused on reducing flood risk while maintaining the community’s tax base.
Walther emphasized that development of the plan is a total community effort, involving everyone from elected officials to community residents.
“We are going to take a lot of what you do and see what gaps can be filled to make things more efficient,” said Walther. “…We will look at community healing. I want to hear from the people who were hurt. We need to really listen to these people and hear what these people say.”
City Planning Director Brandon Love, who has met several times with Walther, said the city already has benefited from being involved in the process of developing a long-range recovery plan.
“I was reluctant six months ago to take on another planning process,” he said. “But the time I have spent with them has been well worth it. Without their work I am sure we would not have received some of the funds we have already for some (infrastructure) projects.”
The recovery plan created as part of the Initiative will be important in the city’s ability to receive funding for recovery projects in the future, City Manager Wayne Horne told council members.
“The General Assembly will use this plan when they are considering additional funding,” Horne said.
In other business, the council on Wednesday:
— Accepted an estimated budget of about $333,000 for the establishment of a state-mandated 911 backup center.
“I can think of a lot of better things to use our money for,” city Emergency Services Director Bill French told the council.
— Approved spending $80,480 to buy two generators for the fire department. The generators will replace two during Hurricane Matthew.
— Approved an amendment to the fire Prevention and Protection chapter of the City Code.
— Approved about $72,000 for computer upgrades at the water plant.
— Approved the purchase of a 6-inch quiet run sewer bypass pump and the purchase of an 8-inch quiet run well point pump.
— Voted to allow sewer repairs to move forward at Elm and First streets.
— Approved a professional services agreement to design and construct a baseball field at Pennington Complex.
— Approved council member requests for the following Community Revitalization Funds: Precinct 4, Karen Higley, $500 for K&L Veterans Affairs for the fourth annual Stand Down and $500 for Community Fun Day; Precinct 8, Erich Hackney, $150 to The Pentecostals of Lumberton Back-to-School Program and $2,500 for an historical marker; Precinct 7, Leon Maynor, $150 to The Pentecostals of Lumberton Back-to-School Program and $500 to Morning Star Church on Dunn Road; Precinct 5, John Cantey, $500 for Community Watch; Precinct 3, Burnis Wilkins, $1,200 for the Godwin Heights Family Fun Day and funds for Robeson County’s first 911 Remembrance Walk.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.