Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and leaders from southern Summit County communities met Wednesday in Barberton to tackle the area’s persistent flooding problem.

The meeting came together after Barberton Mayor Bill Judge and municipal leaders from Norton, Copley, Clinton, New Franklin and Canal Fulton signed a June 20 letter requesting state help.

“Over decades, there have been many governors and mayors faced with this issue,” Judge said during the meeting at the Barberton Community Foundation. “Let’s be the group of leaders that solve it.”

The meeting was the first step toward creating a regional approach to stormwater and flood mitigation.

Summit County Councilwoman Bethany McKenney said the governor pushed for the next step, proposing that the group assemble again and work toward a consensus approach to the problem.

“It was Gov. DeWine’s suggestion that we meet again in the next 10 days and continue working on this issue so it doesn’t fall through the cracks,” McKenney said.

DeWine's office did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

In a news release, Judge’s office said the mayor will be meeting with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Laurie Stevenson to create a task force that will work with the governor’s office on the flooding issue.

The task force was encouraged to apply for state money in the capital budget in 2020, according to the release.

McKenney said the idea to meet again soon showed real interest in the issue from DeWine.

“I think that the governor was on-point with his suggestions at the meeting,” McKenney said. “He wanted to know what was already in the works. He said he would like to see a plan put together that would involve people at every level.”

Barberton, Clinton, Norton, Canal Fulton and other municipalities were hit hard by the flooding in early June.

In Barberton, Barber Road was shut down to traffic and under a foot or more of water, basements were flooded in dozens of homes and the city’s historic Slovene Center suffered a blow that shut down its members bar and bowling alley for good.

McKenney said the memories of that flood are motivation enough to find a solution.

"I went out and passed out sandwiches from the back of my car because a lot of [residents] were flood-bound,” she said. “I saw grown people broken. I saw people crying.”

She said creation of a stormwater management commission is being considered at the county level, but it’s in the preliminary stages.

State Rep. Tavia Galonsky, whose district includes Barberton, said in a news release that there were no quick fixes offered at the meeting, but the dialogue will continue.

“At a minimum, the plan includes communicating with others affected by huge water events such as the one we just experienced during the middle of June,” Galonski said.

State Sen. Vernon Sykes said in a release that the dialogue needs to lead to an agreement on how to mitigate the flooding problem.

“It is important that local leaders come together to evaluate this situation and come to a consensus on how it should be addressed,” said Sykes, who attended the meeting. “I am pleased that the communities impacted by the recent flooding in Barberton are supporting one another and that state and local agencies are doing their best to address this emergency.”

Judge said he would continue to drive toward a solution.

“[The governor] is very supportive of all of us working together,” Judge said in a brief phone interview after the meeting. “We’re going to get moving quickly.”