The following is a report on the incident that occurred on Friday, May 31st, that involved city equipment being driven and becoming stuck in the marsh. We have reviewed the timeline and continue to evaluate appropriate disciplinary action where justified. We have also scheduled training on the Marsh Protection Act and the Shore Protection Act and the Jurisdiction overseen by the DNR.
Below you will find the timeline of events, a description of the mandatory training for staff, and a description of the restoration work that DPW will be doing as per instructions by the DNR. In our conversation with the DNR, it appears that if we follow through on the training and the restoration, they may not levy a financial penalty for this incident.
It appears that the insurance will cover the recovery cost and the value of the lost vehicles. The coverage group (GIRMA) has indicated one deductible of $2,500 will apply for the recovery and the loss of the vehicles and equipment. We are waiting on the adjusters to let us know what the loss value is. The pickup truck in question is an older vehicle and scheduled to be replaced in the next year or two. The 4 wheeler was to be taken out of service once a new one is purchased in the new fiscal year. The backhoe was to be traded for the new one that we just opened bids for last week.
The City participates in a large risk management pool, which includes dozens of other cities, so there is no realistic way of knowing if this claim or any other claim made by another city will impact the premiums of the entire pool. Premium adjustments, in any event, are not scheduled until 2021.
Time Line of Events
- On May 31, 2019 an officer (Ofc #1) was working beach patrol on the north end of the island at around 12:00 pm. He was driving a route in the area, when he took a turn and went into a tidal area and became stuck. He was unsuccessful in getting the ATV out.
- At 12:30 PM, the officer notified a superior officer (Ofc #2) that he was stuck.
- At 12:44 PM, the superior officer (Ofc #2) instructed Ofc #3 to get a 4 wheeler to help get the 4 wheeler out.
- At 12:50 PM, Ofc #3 arrived where Ofc #1 was located.
- At 1:01 PM, Ofc #3 tried to call Ofc #2, and they communicated by text.
- At 1:07 PM, Ofc #3 and Ofc #1 go to DPW for a tow strap or chains to try to pull the 4 wheeler out.
- At 1:18 PM, Ofc #3 and Ofc #1 were given a DPW truck by DPW #1 to use to get the 4 wheeler unstuck.
- At 1:50 PM, DPW arrived on the beach. DPW #1 tried to use a second truck to free the first truck that was stuck.
- At 2:10 PM, Ofc #3 notified Ofc #2 that DPW had gotten 2 trucks stuck and a backhoe.
- At 3:40 PM, Ofc #3 was advised by Ofc #2 to return to the office for her supervisor oral board.
- At 4:00 PM, Ofc #3 left the beach.
- At 4:20 PM, Ofc #4 was made aware of the situation and shown pictures of what was going on.
- At 4:45 PM, Ofc #3 was advised to go out and see what was going on and update us on the situation.
- At 5:00 PM, Chief Bryson was notified of the situation.
- From 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM DPW continued trying to get the vehicles free. DPW managed to get the second truck freed but were unable to get the first truck or JCB Tractor free.
- At 5:00 PM, Ofc #2 arrived on scene and brought Ofc #1 back to the Police Department.
- At 5:35 PM, City Manager, Shawn Gillen was notified by DPW of the situation. DPW stayed on the beach for several more hours trying to get the equipment free. With the assistance of Chatham County, they got the John Deer tractor free but were unable to get the four wheeler and the truck.
NOTE: The purpose of beach patrol being in the area involved investigating a possible homeless camp as has occurred in the past.
- On Monday, June 2nd, DPW employees removed the four wheeler from the marsh by hand during low tide.
- TIC was contacted on Monday, June 2, and asked for a quote to remove the vehicles.
- TIC submitted a quote of $19,000 for the removal.
- On Wednesday, June 5th, the City Council approved the quote.
- At 9:00 AM on Thursday, June 6th, TIC arrived at the site with a barge and crane. At approximately 10:30 AM, TIC was finished with the removal and headed back to their facility with the backhoe and truck on board the barge.
Investigation of activities by employees/Discipline
Interviews/hearings have been and are being conducted, pursuant to City personnel ordinances and policies. Appropriate discipline or counseling will be imposed, as justified in each circumstance under applicable ordinances and policies.
- There is a GA Public Safety Center 8 hour course for Law Enforcement ATV operations at the State academy. We will have to load up our vehicles on a trailer and take them to Forsyth. The officers will also be required to wear helmets on the beach after completing the course. We will be registering for an August class on Monday.
- We will be requiring all employees who drive city vehicles to complete a defensive driving course. This is a resource provided to us by GIRMA.
- The DNR Coastal Resources Division will be conducting training on marsh and coastal jurisdictions to the Police, Fire and DPW Departments. This training will take place during the weeks of June 10th and June 17th.
- In addition to training, the City will also revise the policy for vehicle use to clarify when, how and by whom a vehicle can be driven.
The DNR is requiring us to repair damage in the marsh area caused by the incident. The damage is in the form of ruts caused by the wheels of the vehicles. Danny Carpenter has met with Deb Barreiro at the site. It is agreed that the best course of action is to fill in the wheel ruts with the stored sand we have already purchased. This sand has already been approved by the DNR and can be placed there without any further delay. Danny will develop a step by step plan on how the sand will be delivered to the site and how, with the use of hand tools only, the sand will be placed in the damaged areas.