Lumberton budget includes protection from future floods

The city of Lumberton is just a few days away from finalizing its budget for the coming year.

LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – The city of Lumberton is just a few days away from finalizing its budget for the coming year.

“The national weather center said the Southeast got enough rain to equal 75 percent of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Mayor Bruce Davis of Lumberton. He said it’s been a difficult time since those rains and devastating floods came to Robeson County.

“You can’t put that in your head!” Davis said of the flooding.

Davis said the people in city government came together like never before in the days after the storm–to help a hurting community.

“The fact that our people got that water out of here in less than five days,” Davis listed. “Put these facilities back together in less than two weeks, and the county stepped up and gave us water when we needed it, gave us assistance when we needed it, so many people stepped up.”

Mayor Davis said this year’s budget aims to shore up some of the issues that led to devastating flooding last year.

That includes putting up flood gates–better protections against weaknesses in the area’s system of dykes meant to keep the water at bay.

“Flood gates are just what they sound like,” the Mayor explained. “Two big gates that close in a particular area and then you berm everything to it like they do in Louisiana so when you have a flood, you close those gates.”

FEMA is expected to give the city a $1.2 million hazard mitigation grant to help improve the flood protections for Lumberton’s water plant which flooded after the storm, leaving thousands without water.

The city will raise water and sewer rates by 4.6 percent to help pay for the improvements.

“I met with FEMA, I met with the governor, and I met with a number of committees and I tell each one of them, ‘Without these gates, we could have the same issue again next year,” Davis said.

Some needed improvements include items that had to be delayed due to the destruction Matthew brought–including updates to an automated meter system to avoid high utility bills that many in the city got late last year.

Upgrades to the city’s airport and Veteran’s Park are also included in this year’s $78 million dollar budget plan.

Davis said it’s been a long road, but the people of Lumberton are on the way back up after a devastating storm.

“The governor told me that we were the hardest hit,” Davis smiled. “And the first to recover.”

The budget is expected to be formally approved on June 12th, which the council holds its regular monthly meeting.