While the constant summer rains may have proved to be an inconvenience for tourists and beach-goers this summer, for area resident Betty Price, rain is a nightmare.
Price has been a 31-year resident of Watermark Way in the St. Joe Shores community outside of WindMark Beach and for the last three years, her backyard, garage and utility room have all flooded each time it has rained.
This summer’s weather made her day-to-day routine especially irksome.
It all started four years ago when a holding pond was installed for WindMark Beach.
There wasn’t any form of drainage on the county land behind Price’s household and thus nowhere for the water to go as the rain continued to fall. She noted that as the water levels rise, it spilled out of the pond and down onto her property.
“I would watch the water flowing from the pond back into my yard,” said Price.
Since then her backyard has continually flooded during the summer months and as water levels continued to rise, it invaded her car port and utility room.
Four years later, the utility room is now covered in what Price believes to be black mold and she reported the smell as “horrendous.” Her son Stan had to put her washer, dryer and two freezers up on blocks just to keep them out of the water.
Fed up with the situation, Stan went before the Gulf County Board of Commissioners in Sept. of 2009 and asked for drainage to be added to the area. He didn’t seek an immediate answer, but rather a commitment to solve the problem.
Former Commissioner Bill Williams motioned for a feasibility study and cost estimate to be conducted.
It passed 3-2 but no additional records on the topic were available. In February 2010, the BOCC showed interest in putting together a stormwater committee and Williams requested Stan to be on it, though no additional information was available.
The commissioners recommended that the Price family invest in a pump while the studies could be completed, but having already paid for her dryer vent to be moved up after water levels got too high, Price didn’t want to incur the additional expense of a pump and the electricity to run it.
Unsure what to do, Price reached out to current District 3 Commissioner Joanna Bryan to seek assistance.
Unsuccessful in reaching Bryan and frustrated, she reached out to District 1 Commissioner Carmen McLemore who put her in touch with Jake Lewis at Public Works.
When water levels got too high, Price called Lewis who then brought out the city’s pump to her residence.
“Jake has been very helpful through it all,” said Price.
This year, as the summer rains continued, Price asked Lewis to leave the pump on her property and she puts on thigh-high rubber boots to wade through the water and pump the yard in the morning and evening, a process that takes roughly 2-3 hours.
“I need help,” said Price. “The flooding happens consistently every time it rains.”
Price said that she never had the problem before the WindMark holding pond was dug. She has spoken with attorneys in Tallahassee who have recommended she take action against the county.
Price would prefer not to take legal action; she simply wants a drain installed to keep the water at bay.
“Something has got to be addressed out there,” said County Commissioner Ward McDaniel, who has also visited Price. “Those people can’t continue with that.”
County Commissioner Warren Yeager agreed, “We need to help them because it is safety issue.”
Star News Editor Tim Croft contributed to this report