Kinsman flood victims ineligible for assistance

Richard Leonhard speaks July 24 to the Red Cross as he tries to clean up his home, which was damaged by the flooding of Stratton Creek and caused the Kinsman Lake dam to collapse July 20. The dam cannot be restored using public money because it is privately owned, Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith said. Tribune Chronicle file photo / Renee Fox

WARREN — The dam at Kinsman Lake cannot be restored using public money because it is privately owned, said Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith.

And the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also won’t be providing funds to help residents affected by July flooding.

“We don’t have the numbers,” said Linda Beil, director of of the Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency.

Beil said her agency is looking to identify other funds that may help private property owners with the cleanup costs. Numerous homes were inundated with flood waters near and around the lake after heavy rains July 20.

The county is working on possible solutions to assist Kinsman with restoring access to part of Lakeview and Golf Drive, but the lake’s dam — made up of a still-intact spillway and a washed-away embankment that supported the dam structure — cannot be part of it. That’s because of a legal opinion that classifies the dam as private property, Smith said.

A reconstruction of a road to about 25 homes on the now-isolated and inaccessible roads may dam some of Stratton Creek — the waterway that empties into the man-made lake bed that flooded and swelled, bursting through the earthen embankment Lakeview Drive ran over. But, the reconstruction will likely include a large drainage pipe that will mean Kinsman Lake will likely be nothing more than a “retention pond,” Smith said.

Kinsman Lake was created decades ago as part of a country club and golf course. The Kinsman Lakelands Association, which now includes property owners around the lake, owns the dam.

A meeting to answer questions and update those affected by the flooding and the break of the dam is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Kinsman Township hall.

Kinsman Trustee Greg Leonhard said trustees invited Trumbull County commissioners; the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office; Emergency Management Agency representatives; state Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren; state Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta; and a representative from Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce’s office.

Fundraisers will continue for affected families, including a benefit ride Sept. 21 at Kinsman fire hall, and an arts and crafts walk Oct. 5 at the park. Money will be placed in the Kinsman Relief Fund.

Smith said about $500,000 is available to assist in creating a road for homes that are inaccessible, but more funding is needed and still must be identified. Smith said he submitted his latest plans to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but it is unclear if the state department will have to approve the plans because of questions about whether the agency has jurisdiction if the lake isn’t dammed again.

In the meantime, numerous households have no road access to their homes and others affected by the flooding have no dedicated funding to help them with the aftermath.

Those who want to help may contribute funds. Checks may be made out to the Northern Trumbull County Community Foundation (or NTCCF), with Kinsman Flood Recovery in the memo line, and mailed to: 7 W. State St., Suite 301, Sharon, PA 16146, according to a letter from Kyle English, executive director of the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio to Kinsman trustees. Donations can be sent online at http://comm-foundation.org/northerntrumbull.