By Jordyn Grzelewski
As part of an effort to secure aid for residents whose homes flooded during Friday’s storm, the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, township officials and Mahoning County commissioners are asking residents to report damage.
Reports can be made to the Help Network of Northeast Ohio by calling 211 or 330-747-2696 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., through Thursday. The requested information – name, phone number, address, type of structure, if you own or rent, estimated water depth and whether you have insurance – can also be sent to the township at ReportFlooding@boardmantwp.com.
The information will help the Mahoning EMA in its damage assessment. Links to resources that may be helpful to flood victims are available at boardmantwp.com.
Township trustees also were in touch with state legislators Tuesday about ways to secure help for residents and solutions to flooding problems.
The trustees were in touch Tuesday with state Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, after comments Monday by Trustees Tom Costello and Brad Calhoun critical of state and federal legislators for the township.
As part of a discussion about local tax dollars and the township’s finances, Costello said, “Our state representatives need to start actually representing us in Columbus, and that hasn’t been happening for some time.”
He also referred to the nearly $3 billion “Rainy Day Fund” Gov. John Kasich’s administration has collected in a state savings account, asking that some of it be sent to help Boardman flood victims.
Both he and Calhoun said Monday they felt the only legislator who routinely helps them is state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd.
They did not criticize Boccieri by name, but Boccieri saw the comments and responded Tuesday, saying he “and other local elected officials are urging Boardman Township Trustee Tom Costello to quickly share the township’s flood-mitigation plan and to work with state officials to address local safety and health issues, much like Austintown and Poland did when faced with similar issues.”
“When families and citizens experience the financial and physical devastation that flooding brings, they need serious solutions that prioritize their safety and well-being,” said Boccieri. “I stand ready to assist local officials who need to establish a comprehensive plan immediately to ensure this never happens again.”
The news release detailed flood-mitigation plans put in places in other communities and the involvement of the Mahoning Valley’s state delegation in efforts to address stormwater issues.
“In 1994, we had multiple subdivisions that had in-structure flooding” affecting close to 1,000 homes, said Mahoning County Commissioner and former Austintown Trustee David Ditzler. “As an Austintown trustee we identified the areas that impacted the most homes, and the solutions to rectify the problems. We established a 10-year plan to alleviate all the flooding in Austintown. We proceeded to apply for all grants available to townships, and over the next 10 years we secured almost $6 million for flood alleviating projects.”
The statement also noted that previous efforts to tap into the Rainy Day Fund have been unsuccessful.
“As our local media has reported extensively, in recent years and just as recently as two weeks ago, Gov. Kasich refuses to undo the painful Republican budget cuts of $2 billion to our communities over the last seven years,” Boccieri said. “The governor has shunned both Democrat and Republican efforts to redirect more funding to our communities to deal with issues like infrastructure, public health, and public safety with veto threats. The sad reality is that money will stay in the Rainy Day fund until he leaves office this December.”
Boccieri also noted available resources such as Community Development Block Grant funds.
In response to Boccieri’s statement, Costello said he is frustrated and wants state and federal legislators to help find assistance for Boardman residents.
“The state is sitting on an almost $3 billion Rainy Day Fund. It’s raining in Boardman,” he said. “If these folks can’t qualify for [Federal Emergency Management Agency] or [Small Business Administration] help, they need some help and the state government has a lot more opportunities to step up to the plate than Boardman Township does.”
“We’re looking for a way to help these residents out,” he added.
He also noted that the township has taken steps to address stormwater issues, referring to a project list that was developed after a major flood in 2003. The township has continued to add to that list, and also is a member of a stormwater utility district that is slated to be up and running in the near future. The ABC Water District will be able to collect utility fees and put the revenue toward stormwater projects in Austintown, Boardman and Canfield.
Calhoun said he is “delighted” that Boccieri is willing to work with the township to find solutions. He said his comments on Monday were unfair to Boccieri, but that they came from frustration with state government and the inability of townships to collect additional tax revenue, even though townships such as Boardman generate much of the county’s sales tax revenue.
“It’s just not right that we keep tapping property owners. We have a lot of people who come into our township and they burden our police, our fire, our roads,” he said. “Some of these dollars that are collected from our visitors should come back to help our community.”