By Autumn Evans
Following the public hearing regarding a filled-in ditch on Rose Court in Bergholz at Wheatfield's Town Board meeting last week, one of the property owners has spoken out to defend the actions she and her husband took.
The hearing was for the condemnation of a drainage easement following years of complaints of flooding by Luther Street residents who said their problems began after Duane DiNieri filled in a manmade ditch on his Rose Court property.
Town officials said the ditch was originally dug 15 to 20 years prior, before the DiNieris owned the property. Deborah DiNieri, however, said the ditch was actually dug 12 years ago, adding it was done by a part-timer with the town while the DiNieris were away on vacation.
Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann, who took over the position last year, could not confirm whether the person who dug the ditch worked for the department. However, he said that, as far as he was aware, the town itself had no involvement in digging the ditch.
Deborah said after the ditch was built, their own yard started flooding, so her husband filled it in.
That improved the DiNieris' situation, she said, adding, "Of course, not to say we still don't flood, we just don't flood as bad."
However, though the DiNieri yard stayed drier, their neighbors found themselves waterlogged. After three years of negotiations between the DiNieris and the town with no results, those residents pleaded with the Town Board to find a solution.
Supervisor Bob Cliffe said the town did a survey of the land at the DiNieris' request last year, and agreed to install piping. However, Duane later denied them access to the land.
"We've tried to work with them - we've been trying for three years," Deborah said. She explained the lack of results was because the town was unwilling to spend money to fix the problem. On the topic of piping, she said, "I don't mind if they do it, if they do it correctly."
Deborah said she didn't mind if the drainage in her yard connected to the immediately surrounding houses, but she didn't want "all of Luther Street" draining into her yard, fearing it would become "one big pond."
Deborah also noted a lack of appropriate drainage on Luther Street, including a ditch between her house and a neighbor's that she said "was never finished." Siegmann said it was a complete creek and it did need cleaning, but the creek was not the source of the drainage issues for the residents. He visited the area after the hearing and found the pipes were half full, but not completely blocked.
The public hearing on the condemnation process will remain open until the town's next board meeting, but in the meantime, both the DiNieris and Cliffe expressed a desire to see the current plan to install drainage succeed and avoid going to court.
"I still hope to work with Mr. and Mrs. DiNieri rather than go ahead with the condemnation process," Cliffe said. "In the end, this will be best for all concerned."
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