County pledges help to flooded Groton Twp.

GROTON TWP. They've been flooded with complaints from waterlogged Groton Township residents, and the
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

GROTON TWP.

They've been flooded with complaints from waterlogged Groton Township residents, and they are trying to do something to help.

Erie County's commissioners met Thursday with Groton Township trustees and residents, and pledged to do what they could to resolve flooding problems.

Commissioner Tom Ferrell told a crowd of about 30 at the township hall that fixing the long standing flooding woes requires a "layered" approach -- it can't be solved by the residents alone, or the township trustees, or the county commissioners.

Ferrell promised to seek a joint meeting with the county commissioners in Huron and Sandusky counties and Bellevue Mayor David Kile to craft a regional approach to the flooding problem.

He said commissioners will write to state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island Twp., and state Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, to explore whether state help will be available. The two lawmakers plan to meet next week with local elected officials.

And he urged township residents to continue preparing petitions to set up ditch projects in Groton Township that will help drain away surface water.

Property owners will have to agree to pay the tax assessments that will make a ditch maintenance program possible, Ferrell said.

Ferrell said the county has spent $100,000 to try to pump away the floodwaters. The county is seeking reimbursement from the state for the expense.

Some of the township residents said little had been done since major floods three years ago.

Ferrell said the ditch petition process is the main tool the county has available for dealing with local flooding and drainage problems.

If a ditch petition had been filed three years ago, "we might not be talking about this today," Ferrell said. "Hindsight is always 20/20."

Ferrell said one difficulty is that the floodwater appears to be part of a large underground pool.

"This is not surface water," he said. "It is coming from right up from under the ground."

Several residents said they agree the water table has risen and that at least some of the floodwater seems to be coming up from below.

Still, "once it's on top of the ground, you can control it," township resident Kenn Rospert said.

Residents said they also believe sinkholes have been filled in, making the flooding worse.

Health commissioner Pete Schade and county auditor Tom Paul also attended the meeting and offered help.

Schade said when the flood waters recede, the health department will carry out repeated tests on the wells Groton Township residents depend upon for drinking water. He said the health department will spend what it takes to make sure the water is safe.

"If we have to test your wells four or five times before the end of summer, so be it," he said.

Paul explained houses that suffered physical damage -- as opposed to an inconvenience, such as a flooded backyard -- have lessened in value and would therefore be eligible for a reduction in property taxes.

Homeowners who have suffered damage should fill out a form at the auditor's office and then the office will look at the house and make a judgment, Paul said.

Any adjustment now in a home's valuation won't take effect until taxes are paid in 2009, Paul said.

"You're not going to see any relief until the 2009 calendar year," he said.