Frustrated residents ask for action on drainage issues

The Free Press

Some eight residential property owners expressed impatience with the city of Hillsboro during the April 15 city council meeting regarding longstanding drainage problems in their neighborhoods.

What brought the issue to the council agenda was a request by real estate developer Pat Nuss to relocate a house into the West Winds development located on the city?s west side.

Several residents who live in or near the development were on hand to express concern about the impact the project might have on storm-water drainage problems that arose during heavy rainfalls last summer.

One of the residents, Ron Herbel of 403 Floral Drive, said he had as much as 3 feet of water in his backyard after one heavy rainfall.

He and several other residents along Floral had come to the council several months earlier to register their concerns. It was generally agreed that excess water was coming onto Floral from the West Winds development, which was approved by a former city council some 20 years ago without an effective drainage strategy in place.

Residents at the meeting asked why the city had not done anything to address the issues. Several suggested specific strategies to alleviate the problem.

City Administrator Larry Paine said several weeks ago the council had instructed city engineer Bob Previtera to review the matter because the issue is more far-reaching than simply addressing a problem in one specific area. Water diverted from one area could adversely affect other properties down the line?what Paine termed ?the municipal equivalent of the domino effect.?

Paine said Previtera is in the process of developing a comprehensive drainage strategy for the entire city, which is why residents haven?t seen any visible progress in their neighborhood to this point.

When Paine was told by residents that the city has been aware of the drainage issues for many years, the first-year admini?strator replied, ?I can?t complain about what somebody else did or didn?t do, I can only do what I can do.?

Meanwhile, Nuss expressed the desire that the city grant her a permit to move the house onto the West Wind development so she could proceed with the project prior to an Aug. 1 deadline.

Paine acknowledged at the start of the meeting that two legitimate issues were on the table: the right of a developer to develop land as she or he chooses, and the right of neighboring property owners to protect their property from unintended consequences of such actions.

In the end, the council instructed Previtera to look at the engineering issues and develop a comprehensive strategy. Asked how long he thought it would take to develop a plan, Privetera responded four to six weeks.

Paine and several council members reminded residents that developing a plan of action was only half the battle. The other half was finding the money needed to carry it out.

?A lot of people think the city has deep pockets, and we just don?t said,? said Councilor Shane Marler.

Later in the meeting, the discussion came back to finances, particularly as it relates to drainage and other capital-improvement needs within the city.

Paine said he understood residents? frustration, but there is a bigger picture to consider.

?Everybody has an issue and everybody wants their part of it hammered down right away,? he said. ?But we don?t have enough money to fix all the problems I know about?and you (council members) don?t have the political will to solve all the problems that we have (because of the mill-levy increase it would require to address them).?

South Wilson request

Also inquiring about a previous drainage concern, but in another area of town, Jeff Henderson of 511 S. Wilson asked about progress on the city?s plan to remove asphalt millings it had used several years ago to create a hard-surface ?alley? along the west boundary of yards along those two blocks of South Wilson.

Henderson said the hard-surfaced area was not allowing rainfall to be absorbed into the ground, and thus was contributing to drainage problems for his house and others.

Further investigation revealed the land covered by the millings is actually an easement, which is privately owned property, and not a designated alley, which is city-owned property.

The millings should have never been laid, city officials acknowledged.

Henderson said several months had passed since he and several neighbors brought the issue to the council?s attention, but the city had not yet informed him of a timeline for removing the millings?which he had requested when he first approached the council last summer.

?We?re not ignoring it,? Paine said. ?It just looks like it.?

He said the issue affecting South Wilson was part of the city?s larger drainage review and would be addressed in that context.

Other business

In other issues, the council:

n observed the installation of newly reelected members Shelby Dirks and Byron McCarty. Dirks was then reelected president of the council for another one-year term.

n selected Councilor Bob Watson to serve as chairman of the Public Building Commission, which owns the hospital facility and grounds on behalf of the city.

n approved a concessions agreement for the Hillsboro Jr. Trojans Baseball team for a tournament it will be hosting in Hillsboro in late April. The team will pay the city 12 percent of gross sales, excluding sales tax.

n authorized Mayor Dalke to sign a proclamation designating April 25 as ?Arbor Day? in Hills?boro.

n approved the first pay estimates for the sewer-lagoon project now under construction east of town: $146,278, less 10 percent retainage, for work completed by APAC-Kansas, and $42,431 to Evans, Bierly, Hutchison and Associates for engineering-related services.

n approved a request for a variance to the city noise ordinance that would allow Tabor College students to proceed with a ?Taborstock? music concert until 11 p.m. April 19.

n approved a chip-seal recommendation from the street department. The council was told the project would begin toward the end of July to ensure it would be completed in time to avoid problems caused by cold weather in fall.

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