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No state aid for flood damage coming for Wickliffe residents

By Jeanne Starmack

Monday, July 17, 2006

Amid further appeals for aid, the township is considering more retention ponds.
AUSTINTOWN -- Township residents recovering from flooding after a heavy rainstorm last month are getting some help locally if they need it, but there's no county or state aid coming.
Homes in the township's North Wickliffe area were flooded June 22 when a storm unloaded 21/2 inches of rain in 30 minutes.
A stormwater retention pond in Resurrection Cemetery on North Raccoon Road could not hold all the runoff water, which flooded the North Wickliffe area.
At a trustees' meeting June 26, flooding victims told stories of water flowing through their homes that ruined carpets, drywall and belongings.
Some told of sewage backup; one woman reported a hole 5 feet wide and 8 feet deep opening up over a storm sewer in her yard on North Edgehill Avenue.
People said mold was growing in their homes from the dampness. Some said they were looking at tens of thousands of dollars in repairs, and they did not have the money.
Listening along with the trustees that night were representatives from the county and state emergency management agencies. Clark Jones of the county EMA and Vikki Bunting of the state said they would do what they could to try to get the governor's office to declare the county a disaster area so there would be state aid available.
Prediction unfortunately true
Jones had said that night that the case was marginal because there was no damage to infrastructure, roads or schools.
His words were prophetic.
The storm sewer on North Edgehill and another one that opened up in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Mahoning Avenue would cost an estimated $38,000 to repair, but that wasn't enough in damaged infrastructure to qualify for state aid.
And in a county EMA canvass of 105 homes in North Wickliffe, none was considered damaged enough to warrant aid. The governor's office notified Jones on July 10 that no homeowners would qualify.
But the township officials say they are doing what they can to help people and to prevent the flooding from happening again.
Trustee Lisa Oles said that since the flooding, the township dug out more of the retention pond so it could hold more water.
Township Administrator Michael Dockry said an engineering firm is studying whether an additional retention pond should be built in the cemetery.
Oles added that the township is sending a letter to the governor's office "expressing our displeasure" at the decision not to declare a disaster.
"Clark Jones and Vikki Bunting ... have been a tremendous help, but it's come to a dead-end at the governor's office," she said. "We want some of our tax dollars coming back to us, too. We get overlooked for Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, but we have needs here, too."
The North Wickliffe area is not the only township area that has flooding problems. Oles said the township has asked the Ohio Department of Transportation for reports on when the catch basins on state Route 46 are hooked up while the department is working on the widening of that road.
Oles said the township wants to determine if the road work is contributing to flooding of homes in the College Park and Capital Estates subdivisions.
She also said the township is considering digging a retention pond in the College Park area in ballfields that aren't being used.
Rejected by county
The township has spent $4 million in grants over the last 10 years to alleviate flooding problems.
Trustee David Ditzler expressed frustration last week because the county is turning down a request for a Community Development Block Grant to fund a storm drainage improvement project on Carnegie Avenue in North Wickliffe.
Suzanne Barbati with the county commissioners' Special Projects Office said there is a lot of competition for the grants, which are federal money given to the state, then distributed by counties to local governments. She said the county had $400,000 to distribute this year, but got requests that total $1.2 million.
Barbati said commissioners asked her office if the Carnegie Avenue project, which was submitted for CDBG consideration May 26, would address the issues that caused the June 22 flooding. She said her office told the commissioners that it would not.
That project, Ditzler said, would allow stormwater to discharge south of Carnegie Avenue instead of to the north.
Barbati said her office simply answered the commissioners' question.
Ditzler said the county turned down the Carnegie project for the second year in a row.
Volunteer efforts
Jones said there is no cash assistance available from the county for flooding victims. He said if people need help recovering, they might be able to get it from Catholic Charities or the Rotary Club.
The Austintown Rotary Club is helping about seven households in North Wickliffe with cleanup and repairs, said Oles -- mostly elderly people who don't have anyone else to help them. Twenty-two volunteers spent 18 hours last weekend helping victims, she said.
"We're trying to repair drywall and carpeting because people don't have flood insurance," she added.
Oles said Canfield Rotary members and the Canfield basketball team also helped out. Friends of Rotarians also assisted. She said Sam Boak & amp; Sons donated insulation and a truck for the weekend. The Austintown Giant Eagle donated a meat tray for workers.
Volunteers planned to be back in the area over the weekend to do more work.
For more information, call Austintown Rotary Club president Gary Reel at (330) 533-7712. The club also was accepting donations of money or materials.