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Sumter neighborhood flooded for the 3rd time since 2020, timeline for a fix isn’t clear

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Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 11:29 PM EDT
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SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - For a third time in three years, the Golfair Road community in Sumter County fell victim to flood waters.

Viewers sent WIS pictures of front yards and driveways flooded on Wednesday night.

The floods have recently become a yearly ritual within the neighborhood, with WIS reporting on similar situations in September 2020 and July 2021.

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On Thursday, WIS found Yvonne Thackston and her husband pumping water out of their basement. She expressed frustration with the process she said they repeat regularly.

“You wonder why somebody’s not doing something about [the floods]. I don’t know what can be done, but I would like to see them try something,” she said.

The community borders both the City of Sumter and Sumter County, leaving governments working on the issue.

Resident Gale Wright-Lyons said the city and county should have done something about it “yesterday.”

“It’s frustrating, it’s hurtful because you would think that the first time this issue would be resolved. But here we are in the middle of a pandemic in 2020 and I’m experiencing a second flood, so when I got a call yesterday about a flooding, this can’t be real.”

In the aftermath of the July flood, Sumter County spokesperson Joe Perry sent WIS this statement:

Sumter County Government and the City of Sumter are partners in a hazard mitigation grant that was awarded in 2018 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address a long-standing flooding issue close to Memorial Stadium.

When that region gets inundated with heavy rainfall, the naturally low-lying characteristics of the land have a tendency to hold water.

Both the City and County have been working with an engineering firm, AECOM, which is providing consultation on this project.

The goal is to construct a retention pond and upgrade the infrastructure to help alleviate flash flooding in the area. We want to bring about a long-term solution and as such, more FEMA funds are being sought as we move from the study phase to the construction phase.”

At the time, Perry said the timeline for the project was “as soon as possible.”

On Thursday, WIS attempted to contact Sumter County administrator Gary Mixon and City of Sumter Deron McCormick for comment, but was unsuccessful.

City spokesperson Shelley Kile sent a brief email stating:

Joe Perry, with Sumter County, will be reaching out to you today with an update.

Perry later sent a statement reading:

Sumter County’s Stormwater Utility Manager Alfred Conyers has been in continuous contact with AECOM regarding the pending FEMA-funded project to mitigate flooding hazards in the area close to Memorial Stadium.

In early February of this year, Mr. Conyers reached out to AECOM and was told that their understanding of the situation is that FEMA is taking anywhere between 6 to 18 months to review and approve projects for construction.

According to the National Weather Service, on March 16, 2022, between 2 and 4 inches of rain fell in Sumter County.

Whenever a high volume of rain inundates a region, the low-lying areas will become saturated and possibly flooded.

This is an occurrence that is not unique to Sumter, South Carolina.

We look forward to FEMA reviewing our project so we can move forward with flooding mitigation in the area close to Memorial Stadium.

It’s unclear from the statement if/how the city and county acted on the ground to strengthen the flooding infrastructure in the interim months since July 2021.

Additionally, the statement left it unclear when the FEMA project could produce results for the residents.

Resident Sheryl Brogdon expressed frustration at the July statement regarding the 2018 FEMA funding.

“You say this was 2018, here it is 2022, and literally you just wasted grant money in a study, but no results,” she said.

Residents and the S.C. Department of Transportation have suggested the flooding could be the result of the Quixote Golf Club next door.

The DOT sent a statement in July reading:

SCDOT Sumter Maintenance crews were informed of flooding in the Pinewood Road area on Tuesday, July 20th around 4:30 pm. Upon arriving to the area, crews noticed that there were yards flooded with water on Golfair Road but not the roadway.

With the recent golf course development in that area, SCDOT has noticed that there has been an increase of complaints from residents that we believe is due to the run-off from the property. SCDOT is currently working to collaborate with the City Stormwater Representative to discuss further actions

The golf club again declined to comment on the situation Thursday.

Sumter County Council Chair James McCain Jr. did visit the neighborhood at the request of Wright-Lyons to assess the situation.

He told residents the county would act on it quickly.

McCain declined an interview with WIS, saying this was the first he’d been informed of the situation.

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