Public or private? Reynoldsburg discusses who should pay for dam

Whether the city should pay for repairs to waterways that fall on private property has come up for debate in Reynoldsburg.

During a rain storm in July, a north side property located along Dysar Ditch just off Fall River Drive and Instone Drive sustained damage and began to experience slope failure due to stream bank erosion, the granular nature of the soil on the bank and the volume of water the waterway conveys.

Trees that were located on the property fell into the stream and are blocking the natural flow of the water way, Director of Engineering Jim Miller said at a Nov. 3 city council service committee meeting.

Even though the waterway is for public use, the property and everything on the property, including the trees and the area adjacent to the stream is considered private property.

"We were confronted with the question about whether we, the city, are obligated to repair stream bank erosion," Miller said.

Through speaking with attorneys, the administrator and city attorney concluded it was not the obligation of the city to pay for repairs to the eroded bank, which could cost an estimated $65,000 to repair, Miller said.

If the repairs are not made, Miller said the bank will continue to erode.

There is a possibility the house located on the property could fall into the creek at some time in the future if no action is taken, he said.

Council member Ron Stake said even though the city is not obligated to repair the creek¹s erosion issues, he believes it would be a wise business decision to do so.

"We ought to do what we need to do so the house doesn¹t fall into the creek and plug up our stormwater discharge system," he said.

This, Stake said, could end up costing the city more in the long run.

Council member Mel Clemens expressed caution in spending public funds on private property.

City attorney Jed Hood, however, said even though the property is private, city council determines whether funds spent for the repairs would be for a public purpose.

He noted the city is not under obligation to make the repairs and agreed with Clemens that the issue could present itself as a "slippery slope."

As a property owner along a waterway, council member Donna Shirey said she took on the liability of ground erosion when she purchased the property and says any repairs such as in this case would be at her expense.

Council president William L. Hills said the council should look at implementing a policy in situations such as this.

He said the city will contact the property owner to discuss the matter further.

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