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Flooding woes occupy Green Council

8/11/2011 - South Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Fact-finder’s report rejected; initiative petition goes to ballot

GREEN — Laraine Prewitt stood before Green City Council and members of the city administration and held up her decimated wedding album. She said it was ruined by flooding in the early hours of July 19, after a historic storm dumped nearly 5 inches of rain in the area.

Council’s Transportation, Connectivity and Storm Water Committee opened its floor to several residents Aug. 9 who were frustrated, sad and angry and said the July flooding was only the latest in a string of incidents that demand attention — and solutions — from the city.

Melanie Drive resident Prewitt said she has been dealing with flooding ever since a “100-year flood” struck two days after she took possession in 2003. Since then, her home has flooded a half dozen times and she’s replaced her basement carpeting four times.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “The city has been told and told and told on these issues on Melanie Drive.”

She said she wants to be cooperative but also wants restitution for “what keeps continually happening when this has been brought to the attention of the city many, many times by not just myself but others in my area.”

Ken Knodel, a resident of Hightower Drive in the same neighborhood as Melanie Drive, spoke at length about the history of flooding in the neighborhood. He said the storm July 19, which was exceptional, only magnified flooding issues that began 30 years ago and haven’t been addressed.

“This is not one property owner’s problem but a community problem,” he said.

Several residents also testified to a history of flooding in the Spade Road area, saying that flooding has caused septic systems and wells to fail, and some residents have been forced to live on bottled water.

Delta Drive resident Dana Eales added he fears that the city’s EMS might not be able to reach elderly residents in the neighborhood during times of high water.

Residents of Jupiter and Mars roads in Solar Estates shared their frustrations, as well.

Dana Stahl said there were no problems with flooding until a development was constructed on the other side of Caston Road. Her neighborhood has since flooded three times in 11 years, necessitating she replace carpet and drywall each time, she said.

She showed a slide show of photos taken after the rain stopped falling July 19, including damage to her fence, a sinkhole in her yard and debris left behind by the water in her house.

“Last time it happened five years ago, we were told it was a 100-year rain,” she said. “This time it’s been mentioned to me it’s a 1,000-year rain. I’ve lived there 11 years, and I’ve got a 100- and a 1,000-year rain; I don’t know how many more rains I can take.”

Rebecca Morse added there was 6 inches of water in her family room, and she’s looking at as much as $10,000 to repair flood damage.

“We were like an island,” she said. “This [flood] was the worst.”

City Engineer Paul Pickett explained the retention basin on Caston Road that overtopped July 19 was built to handle a 25-year rain in line with the city’s regulations for new development. He added that if flooding was localized to one neighborhood July 19, it could be determined there was a problem with one part of the storm water system. But the widespread flooding suggests a more pervasive issue.

Councilman Dave France (Ward 2) questioned Pickett about whether the requirements could be changed for future development. Pickett said they are local requirements that the city does have the power to revise.

Council President Joel Reed (at large) suggested Council and city officials consider hiring a consultant to study the problem. He added it might be time to consider asking voters to allow the city to decrease the amount of funding the city puts toward parks capital improvements in favor of addressing storm water issues, a suggestion that drew applause from the two dozen people in the audience.

Mayor Dick Norton later suggested the city “embark on a multiple approach” and move quickly to identify near-term relief fixes for the neighborhoods that repeatedly flood, as well as long-term solutions.

Reed added Council members would consider having a special meeting to further discuss the issues brought before them.

Councilwoman Lynda Smole (at large) pressed for real and immediate action to address flooding concerns, rather than suggestions that never garner forward motion.

“I’ve heard all this for 12 years,” Smole said. “I think this needs to be handled immediately.”

In other business, Council waived second and third readings and voted unanimously to place an initiative petition on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.

The initiative asks city electors to approve the creation of new utilities sub-districts in Green. Massillon Road resident Joel Helms headed up the effort.

Smole, who chairs the Intergovernment and Utilities Committee, noted city residents who want more information should get in touch with the petitioners. Council’s responsibility was merely to vote to place the item on the ballot and not to offer an opinion on whether or not it has merit, Reed added.

“There’s enough signatures, barely,” said Law Director Stephen Pruneski. “We have a duty to get this on the ballot.”

The Summit County Board of Elections’ 90-day filing deadline was the following day, Aug. 10.

Council also, after a 45-minute executive session, waived second and third readings and voted unanimously to reject a fact-finder’s report in negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2964, the union representing city firefighters.

Public Safety Committee Vice Chairman Anthony DeVitis (Ward 3) said after the meeting the negotiations now will go to binding conciliation. DeVitis said that because the report was discussed in executive session, he couldn’t disclose the sticking points in the contract or reasons the city rejected the fact-finder’s report.

Also at the meeting, Council waived second and third readings and OK’d a contract with Northstar Asphalt for the 2011 pavement resurfacing project.

Council also heard from Norton that:

• night work has begun on South Arlington Road and will take place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.;

• due to rainfall and flooding, complaints about mosquitoes have increased, and a second mosquito spraying was set to begin yesterday, Aug. 11 [see related News & Notes on Page 3 for details on that];

• Kovatch Castings, a company located in the city, recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on a new expansion and is set to increase its work force by 50 [see related photo feature on Page 25 for more on that]; and

• there will be Parade of Homes Aug. 20-28 in the Mayfair East community.

Also, a paper shredding event will take place tomorrow, Aug. 13, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Central Administration Building (CAB), 1755 Town Park Blvd. The event is being hosted by the Summit-Akron Solid Waste Management Authority, and a limit of 10 bags or boxes of paper to be shredded is requested.

Green City Council will next meet Aug. 23 beginning at 5 p.m. for committee meetings and continuing at 7 p.m. for the Council meeting in Council Chambers at the CAB.

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