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City making headway with flood control

9/5/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — New Franklin officials are focused on flooding issues and are hoping one project currently underway will serve as an example for others to come.

The Stormwater Demonstration Project, located between New Franklin City Hall and Center Road on property purchased recently by city officials, has started to take shape. That project involves creating a retention basin using an $186,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received in April 2012, which required $50,000 in matching funds from the city. The site will include green space and a wetland, a walking trail around the wetland that city officials plan to link to Miracle Field, located nearby, and an additional 31 parking spots on a porous lot, according to New Franklin Mayor Al Bollas. City officials hope to complete that project by the end of the year.

“This project is a flood control measure that attempts to slow flash flooding downstream,” said Bollas. “It will help to alleviate the amount of flood waters flowing north toward the Catalina ditch and neighborhoods in between.”

Bollas said that an open house to present the demonstration project to officials from the EPA and local and state governments is expected to take place next spring.

Bollas said the city has limited resources to remedy stormwater problems and the grant was appreciated.

“New Franklin is quite hilly, and some houses are in a flood plain and very prone to flash flooding,” said Bollas. “We need more of these types of basins to slow the flow of water and reduce flash flooding.”

According to Zoning and Grants Coordinator Mark Kochheiser, there are 15 “subwatersheds” that have been identified in the city that need attention to remedy flooding issues. Some of these include two separate areas that flow north from City Hall toward Turkeyfoot Lake, another area in the Melody Village allotment, the southwest corner of the city just north of Clinton and one that flows south from Keller and Jennie roads.

The Keller/Jennie roads area has a drop of 203 feet in a 2-mile span, which is a greater drop than Niagara Falls (165 feet) and Horseshoe Falls (173 feet), according to Kochheiser. The southwest corner of the city is also particularly prone to some bad flooding, he said.

“Our best bet to help these areas is to build more of these retention/detention basins, but we need to acquire more property or get drainage easements to do this,” said Bollas.

Kochheiser stated that while maintaining the basins is not very expensive, purchasing the land needed to construct them can be, and purchasing the land where the basin will do the most good is sometimes not possible. One such area is the Melody Village allotment, which was built in the 1950s.

The Demonstration Project addresses one problem area, and city officials are working on the purchase of property on Renninger Road to stem the flow of floodwaters in the second area around City Hall. Kochheiser said the property for a three-quarter acre basin is estimated to cost $20,000, and engineering for the basin is expected to cost about $5,000. He added there is no grant money to help communities in these efforts.

Bollas said while New Franklin is looking at its own flooding issues, solutions are best addressed on a countywide basis because of the watersheds and because fixing the problem downstream may only move the problem upstream.

The Summit County Engineer’s Office has been reviewing stormwater and flooding issues, according to Heidi Swindell, government affairs liaison for the Engineer’s Office.

“As our region continues to develop, storm water management will continue to increase in importance,” said Summit County Engineer Alan Brubaker. “Old ditches constructed in the early 1900s are clogged and cannot move stormwater fast enough. New requirements from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) will continue to increase the burden on local governments to control both the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff. This leaves Summit County in the position of having to affirmatively address the issues of funding future stormwater management to address flooding issues and to comply with regulatory mandates.”

A preliminary proposal to address this issue includes establishing a surface water utility in Summit County. According to previous reports from Summit County Council meetings, this surface water utility would be overseen by the Engineer’s Office, Summit County Council, the County’s Executive’s Office and the Surface Water Management Board, which would be made up of nine members. This surface water utility would oversee a levy on county property owners based on the amount of impervious surface of the property, and two separate utility funds — one for the northern part of the county and one for the southern portion, because of different areas of water flow — would possibly be established.

For more details on this draft proposal, which is currently under review by county officials, visit www.summitengineer.net and click on the Stormwater Management Utility Draft link.

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