Public offices prepare to reopen after Hurricane Sally repairs

CHIPLEY – Hurricane Sally dropped torrential amounts of rain in September 2020, causing flooding to many of the buildings that housed public offices. Approximately 26 inches of water flooded into the library, fire department, city hall, agriculture center, and police station, leaving each building uninhabitable from the damage.   

Each one of the buildings suffered major damage and have been closed to the public for six months. Now, those buildings are on the way to reopening. 

The Chipley Police Department and the Chipley Fire Department have been working out of 1138 Main Street since the flooding.

Police Chief Scott Thompson says it has been challenging, but the department has carried on.

“Due to the perseverance and dedication of the CPD staff, we have addressed and confronted the challenges and have continued to protect and serve,” said Chief Thompson.  

The major damage at both the police and fire departments has been repaired, and the agencies have requested quotes for the remaining cosmetic work such as flooring, sheetrock, and paint.  The projected move in date for both agencies is set for mid-May to June 1. 

Washington County Administrator Jeff Massey says the projected move in date for the Agriculture Center is set for June 1.

“We have given contractors until June 1 to complete the work on the Ag Center,” said Massey. “We want to have everything done in order for the community to be able to enjoy the Watermelon Festival the way it is meant to be enjoyed.”

The Ag Center has undergone an entire refurbishing and is set to once again be a hub for county events. The facility has new lighting, flooring, data points, electric wiring, as well as a whole new look on the exterior. Massey credits Agriculture Center Director Julie Dillard with managing the operation.

“Julie has done a tremendous job in keeping up with the day-to-day work on the building,” said Massey. “I cannot say enough about the job she has done.” 

City Administrator Dan Miner says work at Chipley City Hall should be complete next week, with some cosmetic work being all that remains.

“Hopefully, City Hall will be reopening next week, once the outstanding cosmetic features are taken care of,” said Miner. The monthly workshop and city council meetings, which have recently been held in the Board of Commissioners board room, will once again be held at City Hall for the month of April.

“We may not have seating for the workshop, but we will for the meeting,” said Miner. “We are going to make the best of what we can looking forward. We are excited to be able to service the community with regular operations and face to face service.”

Washington County Public Library’s Chipley Branch took in only eight inches of water as opposed to up to 12 inches taken on by the other buildings, but the damage was tremendous just the same.

According to Library Director Renae Rountree, 3,840 catalogued items were lost in the flood with damages totaling $60,000 dollars. Rountree says library staff focuses on the positive, however.

“We are very blessed because the damage could have been much worse,” she said. Although over 40,000 books were removed after the flood, the library continued to work out of the branches in Sunny Hills and Vernon.

As the final touches near completion, there will be little change to the library’s appearance, something Rountree says was done with intention.

“People have been through enough change in the past few years that we didn’t want to overwhelm them with change to their hometown library as well,” she said. “We are so excited to be back in our building.”