Fairview, homeowners at odds over flooding

News-DemocratJune 23, 2013 

A Fairview Heights man says he has been battling with a flooded backyard for more than 15 years and wants the city to do something about it.

The mayor says the city is aware of the problem but can do nothing about it on the taxpayer's dime.

Cecil E. Hudson lives on Stacy Drive, and he and his neighbors say every time it rains, the water pools in their backyards and sits there, sometimes for a month, breeding mosquitoes and lowering the value of their homes. Donell Russell had a privacy fence installed three years ago and in that time, the standing water has destroyed his investment.

"They are all aware at City Hall what is happening out here," Hudson said. "They came out, looked and it, said they would fix it and agreed it was a problem they would fix. We all thought they would come out and fix the problem, but they tabled it and never did anything."

Every year it gets worse as the water erodes away the soil, Hudson and Russell said. The place the water collects is a low area at the rear of the homeowners' properties along a utility easement. The easement is owned by the homeowners with rights given to utilities to use the land.

Neighborhoods above Stacy Drive have catch basins in the yards that divert the water out of yards and into the sewer system, but those were installed when the subdivision was built.

"There's nothing I can do to my property until we get this water issue corrected," Russell said. "I know it can be done, I know they can do it. Why they choose not to, your guess is as good as mine."

Mayor Gail Mitchell said the problem is not the city's.

"I've taken it through committees and there is nothing we can do," Mitchell said. "I feel bad for the people there, I really do. It's a mess back there but the only thing we can do is put pills in the standing water to prevent mosquitoes. We can't do anything to fix it because the residents own the property."

It is not city-owned property and the issue was not created by anything the city did to surrounding properties, so, according to Mitchell, the problem will have to be fixed by the residents, not the city.

Hudson and Russell say they live on fixed incomes and cannot afford to have the low area fixed.

Mitchell said he rented a bulldozer several years ago, with his own money, and intended to have the problem fixed himself by digging a trench so water could drain in to the street and the sewers.

"The street supervisor told me I couldn't do that because there is wiring under the ground and that prevented me from doing anything," he said. "I don't know what the answer is, I really don't. I had an engineer look at it and he said: 'Mayor, there's nothing we can do about it.' I wish there was, but we can't. We can't do anything because it's private property and you'd have to spend taxpayers' money, and the City Council isn't willing to do that."

Mitchell added that he has asked for the issue to be put back on the public works agenda for further discussion and a possible solution.

"But, if it's on there again, I don't know," he said. "That's up to the public works director, but I really hope they address it again."

Hudson and Russell just want to enjoy their yards and not have to wonder how long the rainwater will sit and stagnate and breed mosquitoes in their yards every time it rains.

"Fix the problem," Hudson said. "Fix it so the water is going out to the sewers just like everybody else. Put in drains, catch basins. They work real good and I think they would work good for us, too. It would solve the problems."

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 239-2667.

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