The first shovels of dirt are being turned on a $4.7 million project aimed at encircling Columbus Regional Hospital with a wall two feet above a newly-calculated 100-year flood stage. Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Steve Thomas said he wants to avoid what happened three summers ago.
“Haw Creek, which is a little tributary over here to the west, due to flash flooding up in the northern part of the floodway, came out of its banks, filled our basement with water and our first floor of our building with six inches of water,” thomas said. “Shut us down for five months.”
The wall’s footers are being poured in this, the first of four phases of the project. In addition, the building’s loading dock, which funneled rushing water directly into the hospital’s basement in 2008, is being filled in with earth and concrete, so the temporary flood walls which were put up after the water receded may be removed. Rollins Construction Project Manager Randy Smith is overseeing the work and said a later stage will involve installing gates at all pedestrian and vehicle entrances to the campus.
“They are passive flood gates that will operate if the water comes up, without any human intervention. They’re an aluminum gate that will be in the ground all the time and if the water comes up, they’re hinged on one side and they float, turn up and hold the water back,” he said.
Smith and Thomas said the project will be complete by year’s end, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency picking up 100% of the cost for the wall and 75% of the cost of filling in the loading dock.