By Autumn Evans
Residents of Luther Street in Bergholz have faced flooding issues for years, but a solution may finally be in sight after a public hearing at Wheatfield's Town Board meeting Monday.
The hearing was on the condemnation of a drainage easement at Rose Court, where resident Duane Dinieri filled in a ditch on his property. The ditch was a manmade one dug out about 20 years prior, before Dinieri purchased the land. After he filled it, neighbors whose own drains connected to the ditch found their yards flooding.
The issue has been going on for at least three years.
On Monday, Town Attorney Bob O'Toole announced they were close to reaching a deal with Dinieri, whereby the town would place drainage pipes beneath his yard. Town Supervisor Bob Cliffe estimated the cost of piping to be about $2,000, which O'Toole said would be cheaper than taking Dinieri to court over a condemnation. The work will be funded by the town's drainage budget.
However, further concerns were raised by a group of Luther Street residents, who requested their names not be printed. They questioned whether there would also be cleanup of the connected ditches and pipes that became blocked as a result of the one on Rose Court being filled in.
"Just to do deal with his property is not gonna deal with our properties. By plugging that drain on his property, he's flooding everybody out down Luther Street," one of the residents said. "If you do put a drain in, it's still not gonna solve a lot of our problems because our pipes that went to his drain got plugged also."
Cliffe advised them to speak to Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann, as those drainage issues were not part of the condemnation process.
Another resident asked the board whether they were certain Dinieri would accept the terms, considering he had agreed to let the town on his property last fall but changed his mind at the last minute.
"How long are we going to wait? This has been going on for years and years," another resident said. "We can't wait any longer."
"Bob, you need to take a strong message from the Town Board that we're not waiting - two more weeks and that's it," Councilman Larry Helwig said.
O'Toole assured the board and the residents that if no agreement was reached by the next meeting, the issue would go to court. The hearing was adjourned, rather than closed. It will continue at the board's next meeting on April 6.
In other Town Board news:
•A representative from engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald presented a layout for the Fairmount Park Improvement Project. The project's main goal is updating the park's restroom facilities to be handicapped accessible. Secondary goals include adding asphalt paths between different sports fields and the rest of the park, updating landscaping and creating more exercise and play areas.
The project will be funded by a grant, with the stipulation that the new ADA-compliant restrooms be included. The new restroom building will be built next to the old one, which will be converted into a storage shed. The new facilities will be stainless steel, chosen because it is low-maintenance and vandal-proof. Another set of restrooms located near the park's concession stands will not be renovated.
The board approved the plan as presented. The next step is for the design to be finalized and submitted to the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Considering the time it would take for the state to approve the plan, as well as time needed to bond the project, the firm and the board estimated construction could begin this fall, with the facilities operational no later than next spring.
•Town Clerk Kathy Harrington McDonnell announced the town's new website, designed by Civic Plus, will go live at the end of May.