Ennis floodplain update in the works

Ennis commission approved an application last Thursday that could result in a generally reduced floodplain within city limits.

Engineers Jeremiah Theys and Jonathan Weaver with Helena-based Great West Engineering gave an update to commission last Thursday on a proposed floodplain change. The engineers displayed maps of the proposed change that would generally reduce the floodplain boundaries in town, although slightly enlarge it in some area. Maps of the proposed floodplain changes are available at Ennis town hall for public inspection.

The floodplain map change was made necessary by the installation of new culverts and bridge crossings with increased drainage capacity. Madison County officials successfully obtained FEMA funds to install the upgraded culverts.

Commission voted 5-0 to approve the floodplain map change application, which engineers will submit to FEMA. The agency has 90 days to review the application and return it to the engineers with comments. The firm then has 90 days to respond to the comments and re-submit the application to FEMA, which will then have another 90 days to deem the application complete or incomplete. If the agency deems the application complete, a 120-day public comment period will begin.

If FEMA approves the application, following the public comment period, the town will conduct public hearings to incorporate the updated maps into its floodplain ordinance.

Theys told commission the replaced culverts were designed to handle only a five-year flood event. “All the new structures that the county put in – the culverts and bridge crossings – are all designed for a 50-year event,” he said. “They have a lot more capacity, so that big flow event can just move right on down the channel. When it does that, you don’t have these big back water effects that you’ve had in the past.”

Theys pointed out large decreases to the floodplain along Moore’s Creek at Armitage Street and Fagin Street and a “huge” reduction in the vicinity of First and Main streets.

The engineer reminded commission the revised floodplain map is a draft and is subject to revision by FEMA. “They could say, ‘We’re keeping the maps as they are,’ but with the modeling and the work and documentation that’s been done, hopefully, they consider these and ultimately revise the floodplain maps,” he said.

The process to gain approval of the updated maps could take as long as a year, according to Theys.

Weaver told commission notices will be mailed out to affected property owners in about a week, and a notice will be published in the local newspaper. The notices will include contact information to request information on the proposed floodplain changes. Property owners will have the opportunity to appeal the changes during FEMA’s 120-day comment period.

New Medical Director Appointed

Commission voted 5-0 to approve a contract with Dr. David Newton to serve as the medical director for the Ennis Ambulance Service.

Chief of Police John Moore recommended Newton’s appointment. “The ambulance is going to get somebody who’s going to hold them to a standard and help them better themselves and hopefully better the patient care,” he said. “Right now, the medical director is supposed to review a certain percentage of the runs that the ambulance will provide, to make sure they are following state law and following state protocols. He’s supposed to test the ambulance staff to make sure that their skills are up-to-date. That has never happened in the seven years that I’ve been here.”

Newton will receive $5,000 for his services, which is the maximum amount the doctor can receive and be protected from liability, according to Moore.

The police chief said the contract specifies the duties of the medical director. “It puts into writing what is expected of him,” said Moore. “We’re paying him. The contract specifies what we are getting for this money… I think he’s really good for the ambulance. He’s a great teacher. I’ve been to many of his classes. He’s an awesome instructor. I think he would be a really good choice for the ambulance.”

Mayor Larry Pine signed the contract, which is expected to be finalized with Newton this Thursday.

Commission approved parking ordinance changes which define camping as, “To sleep within, whether permanent or temporary, a tent, shelter, mobile home, recreational vehicle, motor home or travel trailer.” The changes also include a new provision making a vehicle owner responsible for parking violations when the identity of the operator cannot be determined, and eliminates a truck parking section which is no longer applicable.

Moore informed commission that a rented apartment on the second floor of town hall creates a number of security and legal issues for the town. The police chief said he attended FBI security training and learned about proper safeguarding of official records. Moore noted a “huge security issue” due to the upstairs apartment and recommended either vacating the apartment or upgrading town hall for additional security.

Council took no action on Moore’s recommendation but will consider the installation of a steel door to improve security.

Pine, who leaves office on Jan. 1, bid farewell to commission and thanked them for their service to the community. Commissioners thanked Pine for his service as mayor.

In other business, Ennis commission:

• Approved selling a town-owned ambulance with a minimum bid of $5,000;

• Set a work session for Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m. with zoning administrator Art Behar.

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