Property owner finds himself in dam trouble

Officials believe public safety is threatened

By Justin Wier


A year ago, James Salter told The Vindicator he purchased property in Austintown that included the crumbling Woodside Lake Dam because, “It was $50. You can’t go wrong.”

Now that the Ohio Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against Salter for his failure to repair the dam, something has gone wrong.

The suit filed Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court claims that “despite repeated warnings and the issuance of a Chief’s Order from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ division of water resources, Mr. James Salter continues to threaten public safety in his operation of, and failure to address unsafe conditions at the Woodside Lake Dam.”

The dam’s failure would “result in flooding of high-value property, including residential property and local roads downstream.”

Salter purchased the 9.63-acre property last March in the Mahoning County Auditor’s auction.

He estimated repair would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 and said at the time late summer would be the best time to fix the dam.

He hoped the lake’s neighbors would help pay for the repairs.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources sent Salter a notice last March asking him to lower the lake by 4 feet until the dam is brought into compliance, according to the lawsuit.

“[Salter] made no attempts to comply with the requirements ... or with Ohio’s dam safety laws and rules,” the lawsuit says.

The Vindicator was unable to reach Salter to comment.

Joe McHenry, of Edinburgh Drive, wrote a letter to his neighbors last February warning that property values could drop if the lake is drained.

He estimated costs of $334,900 and suggested homeowners could share in that cost based on their property values.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to order Salter to lower the lake’s water level, submit a plan to maintain that level and to submit a schedule and plan to either repair, breach or modify the dam.

It also asks a judge to order Salter to pay all costs and fees associated with the action.

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