Residents quiz city on flood problem remedies


(Posted Aug. 11, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London residents whose properties were flooded during the July downpours want to know what the city plans to do to prevent such problems in the future.

Theresa Hennis was one of several residents who addressed city council on Aug. 3. She said she and several of her neighbors on Graham Avenue have incurred costs for sump pumps and repairs due to flooding.

“We can’t keep pouring money into something that’s just going to keep happening over and over,” she said. “I understand it’s an aging infrastructure. I understand you can’t work magic, but (what about) maintenance on a regular basis?”

She added, “My biggest concern is that if it happens again, we’re not ready.”

Mike Ballenger’s home flooded. He lives at Main Street and Mariemont Avenue, one of the roadways that was closed due to flooding. He, too, wants to know what the city plans to do. Problems there came as a surprise because the area does not sit in the flood plain.

“I hope you guys know that we do care… we know something needs to be done,” said Mayor Patrick Closser.

The city has hired a company to scope several sections of storm water lines. The company uses a camera to look for blockages and breaks. Additionally, the city’s jetter truck is repaired and back in service. The truck uses high pressure to blow debris out of the lines. Work on trouble spots is taking place now. Money from the city’s general fund is covering those costs.

Councilmen Rex Castle and Dick Minner agreed that more frequent maintenance, such as clearing ditches of trees and debris, is needed.

Jerry Bales, a Graham Avenue resident, wanted to know how the city would go about upgrading the storm sewer system and where the money would come from to pay for such upgrades. He asked why the city is spending $1.6 million on renovating its Walnut Street property for city offices when the storm sewers need attention.

Joe Mosier, safety-services director, said that if the city pursued major storm sewer upgrades, it would seek funding from sources such as federally funded critical infrastructure grants. Funding for the Walnut Street project is a completely separate issue, he said. The city is getting a loan for the renovation project.

Closser said that in the past, council has looked at starting a storm water utility, a fee added to utility bills to generate funds for such improvements. He suggested that council revisit the idea. Once a city hits a population of 10,000, it must institute a storm water utility. Closser said London is on track to hit that number in 2020.

“It’s only two-and-a-half years out. We might as well do it now,” he urged.

Councilman Trint Hatt emphasized the idea of city government taking a proactive approach rather than reactive, no matter the issue.

“We’re getting to a point with this administration and this council where we’re addressing the issues, and we can begin to be proactive. We’re hitting that point now,” he said. “Twelve inches of rain in 72 hours was our turning point.”

In other action, council voted 6-0 to accept a $1.59 million bid from All State Exteriors of London to renovate the Walnut Street school property for city offices.

The city received three bids for the work, all of which came in over the $1.6 million the city allocated for the project. The bids were structured with alternatives, so that the city could eliminate some features should the bids come in over budget. The city chose to eliminate some window replacements and renovation of the facility’s multi-purpose room to get under the $1.6 million.

Work will begin soon in order to address safety and security issues before the Madison Champaign Educational Service Center starts classes in the building this month and to fix heating issues before winter. The entire renovation is set to be done by April 2018.

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