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Peabody Council Reviews $15 Million Flood Plan

City planning officials, engineers say first phase of downtown flood mitigation will involve temporarily relocating Peabody Square monument.

If City Councilors felt any hesistation about going forward with a $15 million flood mitigation plan for downtown, city planning officials reminded them about one simple fact.

Since 2006, dowtown flooding has cost the city that much money in damaged businesses, emergency response, lost property tax revenue and downtown vacancies.

Karen Sawyer, director of the Community Services and Planning Department, said the goal of the three-phase project is to "invest in city infrastructure" to spur future economic growth in the form of new jobs and property tax revenue.

She said the city incurred $12 million of damage from the Mother's Day flood in 2006 and another $2- to $3 million in flood damage in 2010. She said three of the six major floods that have happened since 2006 resulted in three federal disaster declarations.

Robert Langley, director of the city Department of Public Services, said the city has tried to deal with this issue as far back as 1956 when one of the first studies took place.

Sawyer told city councilors who serve on the Committee of the Whole that Project 1 involves installing a culvert along Goldwaithe Brook that runs through Peabody Square down Foster Street to the North River.

Project 2 would wide the North River from Wallis Street to Howley Street and Project 3 would wide the North River from Howley Street to Grove Street in Salem, which would require cooperation from Salem officials.

Don Walker, the associate vice president of AECOM, the Wakefield engineering firm the city has retained for this project, is serving as project manager in Peabody.

He told committee members Project 1 would involve the installion of twin four-foot by 10-foot concrete culverts along Mill Street south of the railroad tracks near Downtown Pizza. He also said the project will require new traffic patterns through the square and the temporary dismantling and relocation of the Peabody Square Monument.

"This really represents an investment," Walker said.

Sawyer told committee members the project's construction costs and timeline would be established by September, the design would be completed by December and construction would begin in the spring 2012. She also said construction would take 18 months and could be completed by late 2013.

Ward 5 City Councilor David Gamache wanted to make sure the council understood the total costs of the project. Sawyer told the committee the city already has $3 million in federal grant money to spend on the project between now and August and the city would need to provide the rest of the funding at that point.

Councilor-at-Large Ted Bettencourt, a candidate for mayor, said the city should make the investment to improve the downtown after being victimized by so many floods over several years.

"This is a sound investment that will help bring the downtown area back," he said.

Gamache agreed.

"The sooner we do it, the better off we are," he said.

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