Flooded Hamilton residents seek city solution

With property owners still assessing damage from last week's flooding, residents of Hamilton's West Side asked city officials Wednesday for help after storm water, and sometimes raw sewage, occasionally swamps their basements.

“The residents in my area, Park and Haldimand (avenues), have had issues with the storm sewers backing up in our basements many times over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Carolyn Smith, a 23-year resident. “The first time it happened, I was told it was a once-in-a-hundred-year event.”

“A few years went by, I finished my basement, and in 2009 I had to make a $10,000 claim to my homeowners’ insurance … when it happened again,” she said, noting she has lost many irreplaceable things. She removed the lower half of the basement’s drywall to prevent mold, put her clothes dryer on concrete blocks, bought wire shelving and a large industrial vacuum.

“Now when it happens, if it’s below 3 inches, it’s only a couple hours of my time and energy,” Smith said. “This last flood, many homes in the area were affected. As you know, there was a lot of water in our area.”

"Do something to prevent this from happening again," she urged council members and city leaders. "But please don't tell us it's an act of God, because I don't think God hates Haldimand Avenue. We should be able to use our basements, and not watch the value of our property go down."

Mayor Pat Moeller promised Smith and others that city administrators at council’s next meeting, June 22, will present a report about “a draft of a plan” to solve the problem.

“It might have a couple of options to it, but rest assured that we are aware of how this has affected those who have contacted us,” Moeller said. “We’re trying to responsive — we’re not trying to rush into something which may not be really well-thought-out. So we’ve got great department heads, great directors … working on a plan, and we will be talking about it at our June 22 meeting.”

Moeller said people affected were in the the Highland Park, Rossville, South Washington and the Glencross Avenue areas, and, “I’m sure there are other areas that may have been left out.”

People interested in telling city officials about problems they faced, or who wish to make suggestions, can call council’s offices at 513-785-7182.

City officials on Thursday were not immediately able to estimate how many properties were affected or whether they believed the flooding was related in any way to Two Mile Creek's flood plain, for which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated a new "Special Flood Hazard Area." City officials plan to fight that designation.

Mark Koehler of Park Avenue told the council he has been hurt by flooding “about six times” in the 15 years since he has lived there, including 2009, when he had 18 inches of water in the basement.

Pam Long, a Cereal Avenue resident for 32 years, said her home has been flooded three times. She has installed a sump pump in her basement. Her neighbors have lost mattresses, furniture, carpeting, drywall, she told council.

“The thing that’s happening is our basements are no longer a place of permanence, and these are primarily two-story homes, so that basically our bottom floor, the basement, is not really usable,” Long said. “So that means that one-third of our structure isn’t something we can count on for either storage or mementos or anything of any kind of value.”

“People are starting to ask: ‘How long are we going to be able to rebuild?’” Long added.

Park Avenue resident Eric Preston, who didn’t attend the council meeting, on Thursday said he installed a backflow preventer, which is supposed to keep water from the basement. “It helped a little bit, but still we got four inches,” he said.

That’s much better than 2009, the year he moved in, when the basement was flooded by 21 inches of water, he said.

“These homes will become blighted properties in the future if this problem is not resolved,” Smith told council. “I ask the city to address this problem. People are tired of hearing reasons why. We’ve heard lots of different reasons why. We just want it fixed. If the sewers are inadequate, please fix them. If debris is the issue, scope and clean them yearly before spring rains. Add grills to the sewers to prevent debris from going into them.”

Moeller’s announcement that the city will unveil plans on June 22 was good news to residents.

“That makes me feel a lot better,” said Melissa Keene, who has owned her home five years, after her parents owned it 30 years. She’s been flooded about three times since she took ownership, this time “just six inches,” she said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Paula Hamilton, who lives near the others, has been flooded about six times since 2002, had 2.5 inches this time, and said she is “cautiously optimistic” the city will help the neighborhood.”It’s very frustrating. I have a freezer down there. I have a washer and dryer, and I just purchased my washer and dryer after the last flood. I don’t want to have to buy a new one.”

“It’s just very frustrating that we’ve gone through this, and gone through this, and gone through this, and it just never seems to get anywhere,” Hamilton said. “I will go back to the next meeting, and see what kind of suggestions they have, and we’ll see what happens. I’m trying not to be negative.”

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