About 35 Eagle Lake Shore Road and Eagle Lake residents attended a meeting Friday night organized by Linda Banchetti, a resident of Eagle Lake and owner of the Eagle Lake Matters website.
The crucial topic of the poorly attended meeting was to begin planning for a potential flood of the area in 2020. Held at the lodge at Tara Wildlife Jan. 17, the meeting invitation did not hint at the meeting’s importance, which only indicated a get-together.
Regardless, the meeting was well organized and included brief comments from Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, Chief Deputy Billie Jo Heggins, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer, Warren County Fire Coordinator Gerald Briggs and Warren County 911 Director Shane Garrard. Each spoke on what to anticipate this year and how to organize for a better result if another flood occurred this year.
Paul Banchetti led the meeting that determined how to best approach the next flood event.
“We need to name an incident commander to organize and lead everyone,” said Chris Libbey, assistant fire chief with the Eagle Lake Fire Department. “One person to organize and form a team to keep track of the resources, chain of command, communications and keep track of the paperwork.”
Elfer and Briggs cautioned attendees that the fire department would not be taking the lead this year, as it did in 2019. Residents need to organize the effort and the county will assist however possible, they said.
Noticeably absent from the meeting was Eagle Lake Fire Chief Earl Wallace. “I’m not a member of Eagle Lake Matters, so I didn’t receive an email,” he said.
None of the Warren County supervisors were in attendance, either, and Linda Banchetti said she did not invite them. Supervisors came under fire from Eagle Lake residents for the way they managed the 2019 flood. Supervisor Willam Banks’ District 2 includes Eagle Lake.
The meeting was not publicized on the Eagle Lake Matters website, nor was there any notification on a corresponding private Facebook page.
Some residents of Eagle Lake were angry that they were not invited to the meeting. The only notification, other than word of mouth, was an email sent to about 300 people, Banchetti said, a little more than half of the 575 households in the Eagle Lake community. Several of those who received the email said it landed in their spam or junk folders.
This reporter asked four attendees how they heard about the meeting, and each said, in effect, “someone told me.”
Many Eagle Lake residents believe they were purposefully excluded from the meeting.
“As much work as everyone has done on that side of the lake and to hold a meeting on the upcoming flood without putting the word out does not sit well with me, ” wrote resident Jeff Terry in a Facebook post. Others quickly chimed in their displeasure with not knowing about the meeting. “There are officials at that meeting! I’m pissed because why doesn’t Eagle Lake owners know about this” wrote one, while another stated, “We didn’t know, because they didn’t want us to know.”
Chief Wallace told the Vicksburg Daily News that he would be calling a community-wide meeting. Specifically, organizers will publish a list of “what to do when the water hits this level,” he said. “We will also name someone to be in charge and to organize how best to manage resources.”
“We are all residents of Eagle Lake,” he added.
In an email sent Saturday morning, Banchetti wrote, “The discussion from the meeting last night will be posted soon. This meeting was to organize and not tear the lake apart. The discussion has to start somewhere and this was a starting point. No one was left out intentionally or otherwise.”
She admonished readers to “be positive and help move forward not backward!”
Banchetti said the discussion will be posted on Eagle Lake Matters website today.
She was unable to say how many people received the email and how many emails were delivered to spam folders. “I have no control over anyone else’s computer,” she said.
“I am being blamed for trying to do something,” Banchetti said about the community’s reaction.