Recurrent flooding in downtown Decatur may be too expensive to fix, but the problem deserves attention.
In a bizarre defense of city inaction, City Councilman Roger Anders pointed out that New Orleans was unprepared for flooding that overwhelmed that city in 2005 and Nashville was similarly unprepared for flooding in 2010.
The point the mayor and council should be taking from such disasters is that the cost of inaction can be much higher than the cost of solving the problem.
The Saturday downpour that dumped five inches of rain on Decatur was unusual, but not unprecedented. It will happen again.
In the future, the cost of such flooding will be greater. The community is investing heavily to promote development of a downtown corridor that includes the flood-prone area. The Alabama Center for the Arts barely escaped damage Saturday. Parking lots that eventually will be used by its students were covered by up to three feet of water. Thirteen police vehicles were damaged, along with private vehicles.
Business owners and private investors considering downtown development are understandably concerned.
Rather than starting with the assumption that the problem cannot be solved, city leaders need to determine the cost of a permanent solution. They should then balance that cost against the cost — to taxpayers, individuals and businesses — of doing nothing.
Eventually, inadequate drainage will cause serious problems that undo efforts to improve downtown Decatur. A solution may not be affordable, but that determination must be made with an understanding of the cost of failing to act.
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