Summit County officials are working to be on the same page with residents seeking flood-relief solutions.
County Council on Monday approved its $8.1 million Capital Improvements Program for funding the balance of projects for the year. It set aside $100,000 to specifically address stormwater issues in the county.
The next step is to determine how the money will be spent.
Summit County Councilwoman Tamela Lee, whose district includes Copley Township, an area that was hit hard with flooding last summer, said it is a problem of which she has been going round and round with the engineer’s office for three years.
“It all boils down to cleaning out two or three ditches. These people’s homes are flooding because the ditches are not maintained,” she said. “If we are giving money to the engineer’s office to take care of this problem, why isn’t it getting done?”
Copley Township resident Faye Nicholson said when the ditches were being cleaned out regularly they didn’t have this problem.
“All we ask is that they clean out the ditches, but they said they didn’t have the money to do that. It is really upsetting because it’s a small thing to ask after losing so much,” said the Sunnyacres Road resident. “I lost two cars and everything on my lower level and so did everyone else, our heater, furnace, hot water heater, furniture in our family room, washer and dryer. I still can’t use the lower level in my home. It is mud filled and all the walls are gutted out to prevent mold.
“It went from a very comfortable living space to it looks like a house of horror down there.”
Nicholson has had two floods — one on July 29, 2011, and the other on July 10, 2013.
“When I purchased the home in 2005 we were not in a flood zone or I would never have purchased it,” she said. “We were placed in a flood zone in 2009. I even fought that. I had a surveyor come out, but he confirmed the house was in a flood zone. Now I have to take on flood insurance.”
The cost of the insurance is about $2,000 a year, too expensive for something that some residents, like Derrick Mosely, feel would not be a problem if the ditches were cleaned out.
“In the past four or five years it has flooded two times,” said the Wright Road resident. “I’ve been in my house for 54 years and I’ve watched the situation. Until they open up those streams and creeks on the other side of Wadsworth Road to release the water and clean the debris out of the ditches this area will flood again. The county engineer’s office used to dredge the ditches up until five years ago. When they cleaned the ditches there was never a flooding problem.”
Steve Bruno, of the engineer’s office, said they couldn’t afford to take the workers off the road to clean ditches because there isn’t enough money available. He suggested charging residents a maintenance fee.
Under the previous administration, there was a ditch maintenance crew.
Lee said she would like to know why the crew was eliminated.
“The money was there under the previous administration, it’s not like there’s some huge difference in funding previously,” Lee said.
Mosely wants to know why the money to protect their homes from flooding is being used elsewhere.
“What is a priority? Aren’t my tax dollars worth anything. I pay my taxes religiously,” said Mosely. “I’ve lived here for all this time and all of a sudden I can’t get anything done.”
Copley Township Trustee Helen Humphrys said the township has joined forces with Barberton and Norton to help set up a watershed district to fight flooding.
The communities plan to petition the courts to establish a master plan for how to reduce flooding in their areas. The communities want to create a watershed conservancy district and establish a panel of judges to act as a Conservancy Court to approve what is being called the Wolf Creek Watershed Conservancy District.
County Council will let the townships decide on how they want to tackle the problem using the $100,000 set aside for it.
Township trustees will meet this week to discuss their options.
“They can use some of the money to pay for a study by the engineer’s department on resolving the problem and use the remainder for ditch work,” said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry. “Or they can use all $100,000 on dealing with the problem locally by using it all on ditch cleaning or a portion of it for a countywide utility system such as a watershed conservancy district.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.