By Jordyn grzelewski
The township will not be required to fix a ditch that has been a source of frustration for some residents of Camella and Cliffview drives since it started to expand decades ago.
According to an opinion by Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, the township is not responsible for maintenance or repair of underground storm- water drainage facilities that were installed by residential developers, unless trustees determine that the drainage facilities are needed to remove water from a road.
The opinion came as both a surprise and a disappointment to Camella Drive resident Robert Buckner, who was actively involved in lobbying the township trustees to take responsibility for repairing the ditch.
“It’s just kind of a disappointment to hear that opinion,” Buckner said. “We thought the township would step up to the bat and do something.”
Buckner said the ditch has gotten progressively worse over the past few decades, and that the section that runs through his property has grown from 1 to 2 feet in diameter to about 14 feet in diameter and about 4 feet deep.
Residents of the two streets began voicing concerns about the ditch, which runs through several properties, in the early 1990s after it started to grow in width and depth.
Township Trustee Robert Lidle said it was not a matter of the board’s choosing not to fix the ditch, but that the law prevents the trustees from using township funds to work on private property.
“[Trustee Eric Ungaro] and I came to the conclusion that we should get the legal opinion that matters most in the county,” Lidle said.
Ungaro said they took the issue to the prosecutor’s office to put an end to the “he said, she said” that has been going on for years.
“If you’re going to do the right thing, you can’t do anything different than hand it over to the prosecutor. And we’re trying to do the right thing,” Ungaro said. “I just think that’s it. To turn it over to the prosecutor and engineer — there is not a more highly respected entity in Mahoning County.”
Steve Stanislav of Cliffview Drive, whose property is affected by the ditch, said he has not yet decided what, if any, action he will take. “I’m going to meet with a couple neighbors and see what our options are,” he said.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Stanislav said in reference to the opinion.
A section of the ditch on two properties was repaired several years ago, leading some residents to question why part but not all of it was fixed. According to Lidle, this section was fixed because it was part of an easement, which is a right of way for utilities and is the responsibility of the township. There has been much debate as to whether an easement exists for the entire area.
The prosecutor’s office will be the township’s legal representative if the issue results in litigation, according to Ungaro.
“With regards to questions or concerns, people should feel free to contact the prosecutor’s office and discuss it,” Lidle said.