Private land, public funds
Is the township allowed to fix a problem that affects only private property?
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Township Administrator Michael Dockry says he's seeking an opinion from the Mahoning County prosecutor on whether the township can address flooding on private property.
Dockry said he believes the township can address only flooding problems on private property if the flooding is in a township right-of-way or if it affects a township road. He decided to seek the prosecutor's opinion on the issue after talking to Selkirk Avenue residents about flooding in their yards.
"I'm tired of spending $15,000 in a year on my home" to repair flooding damage, Selkirk Avenue resident Janet Reynolds told township trustees during their Monday night meeting. "The next situation is to close our home and sell it. Who's going to buy it?"
Dockry said the residents' problems could be addressed if a drainage ditch were dug through their yards to a catch basin that carries storm water to Ax Factory Run. He noted, however, that he doesn't know if the township has the authority to spend taxpayers' money on a flooding problem that affects private property.
Trustees have hired a consultant to help compile a list of homes in the township that are affected by flooding. Once the list is complete, the township most likely will seek a state grant to help pay for projects to address the flooding problems.
The first projects most likely will be on roads like Kleber Avenue where a high number of homes have flooding problems, trustees said. Trustee David Ditzler said about a dozen homeowners on Kleber Avenue have reported flooding issues.
Trustee Bo Pritchard added that the township has spent about $4.5 million on projects designed to reduce flooding over the past 10 years, while Trustee Lisa Oles noted that information about federal relief funding for residents affected by flooding is available at township hall.
Trustees also expressed concern that the county's repaving project on New Road may not help address flooding problems. They had wanted the county to remove blacktop that has partially covered catch basins along the road and raised the road so that it is the same height as the curbs. The county may not accomplish that through the latest repaving project, however, trustees said.
Also Monday, Lt. Mark Durkin, the acting police chief, told trustees that police overtime costs were kept to about $852 during the recent Fitch High School visit of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate. That's equal to a total of about 22.5 hours of overtime for the nine officers who helped the Secret Service with security for Kerry's visit.
Township Parks Supervisor Joyce Gottron also announced Monday that Armstrong cable has agreed to provide $2,000 to build a sand volleyball court and a horseshoe and boccie court area this fall at the township park on Kirk Road. The Austintown Junior Women's League also is sponsoring a $250 project by the Austintown Girl Scouts to install the park's name in landscape lettering near the park entrance this fall or next spring, Gottron said.
Contractors also have recently installed a concrete base under the new park pavilion while also working to place new siding on the bandshell, she said. Those projects are being paid for with $13,000 from the county sales tax, she said.