Earlier this month, strong downpours again reminded Summit County residents of the kind of damage that can be done when storm water is not properly controlled. The results were flooded homes, damaged businesses and ruined roads and bridges. In the vulnerable Cuyahoga Valley National Park, trails and the scenic rail line were closed.
Meanwhile, development of a countywide or regional plan to handle the problem has stalled, the victim of legal and political difficulties. Still, that should not mean nothing gets done. The combination of increasingly violent storms, due to climate change, and runoff from more development around the Cuyahoga Valley has left too many vulnerable to flooding.
A promising route for relief appears open in the plan, backed by Russ Pry, the county executive, to increase the county sales tax by 0.25 percent, which would raise $20 million a year. The plan involves funding a new basketball arena for the University of Akron in downtown, plus public safety priorities such as the financially stressed operation of the county jail. Still, there is room in the proposal to move forward on storm water issues, adding in a big way to the appeal of the tax issue in suburban communities.
Under the proposal, about $4.5 million a year would go into the county’s general fund, initially backing a bond issue to purchase some $12 million in cars, computers and building improvements. A study of the county’s storm water problems could be included. At the least, when the bonds are paid off, a revenue stream would exist to start work on the most flood-prone areas.
Unfortunately, rules on what may be included in the language voters actually would see on the ballot prevent a specific reference to storm water problems. That technicality should not stop county officials from working out the details, then pushing the idea vigorously in a campaign to pass the sales tax increase.
Otherwise, voters in suburban areas harmed by repeated flooding understandably will ask why the county can afford to build a $76 million arena but can’t find the resources to start dealing with chronic flooding problems that appear to be getting worse every spring.