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Rainy summer brings extra costs to county

LAWRENCEVILLE — In 2009, one big deluge washed out streets, damaged a sewage plant and caused hours of overtime as local police and firemen rescued people trapped in the flood.

The historic event cost the county millions, but the government was able to recoup much of it when the area was declared a federal disaster area.

This summer never had the catastrophe of that single day, but days upon days of rain, which put the area on target for a record, has cost the county thousands in unexpected costs.

“One of the worst things that can happen to us is a really rainy year,” Deputy Water Resources Director Tyler Richards said in a recent presentation to county officials.

Through the end of August, the state had 51 inches of rain recorded, which is more than the average rainfall for an entire year.

Through that same period, the county water department saw consumption down 8.5 percent compared to 2012. That is a net reduction of 1.3 billion gallons of water.

Residents had no need to turn on the sprinkle to water the lawn the summer, which is great for conservation but bad for the water department’s revenues, officials said. That dip in revenues, though, was balanced by a decrease in the cost of chemicals, since less water had to be treated.

The agency also saw a 50 percent increase in requests for stormwater drainage service, compared to 2012, and the rainy weather caused delays in maintenance and repair projects.

Water department staffers had to be out in many of the rain events, searching for areas where manholes had been torn off and other damage and inspection the rainwater inflow into the sewer system.

Lightning strikes caused electrical damage to the sewer pump stations, Richards said, and transportation officials also noted an increase in problems due to lightning strikes this summer.

Transportation Director Kim Conroy said DOT staff also had to brave the storms to check on traffic lights.

“(Storms) play havoc on our traffic signals,” Conroy said, also adding that cars frequently hydroplane and crash into control boxes.

In the last four months, the DOT has had 275 traffic signal calls,” Conroy said.

That is a 45 percent increase from 2012, and the amount of overtime paid to employees has doubled due to the weather.