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Drainage work to begin next year

GIRARD — Flooded basements could be a thing of the past for some Girard residents as city council plans to move forward with the Wellman-Liberty drainage improvement project.

This will affect about eight houses in the Wellman-Liberty area where residents regularly have to push sewage out of their basements whenever there is a lot of rainfall.

“There’s nothing more, outside of a fire, there’s nothing more difficult for a citizen than to be pushing three or four or five or six inches of sewage out of their basement. It’s very, very disheartening to say the least,” said Mayor James Melfi. “This is an area that affects fewer houses than normal, but it’s still as devastating.”

This project was approved through the Ohio Public Works Commission to put in a detention basin on Mahoning Country Club property to slow the flow of rain water.

“A one-inch rain over a four-to-six-hour period can actually cause more problems than one-inch rain over a whole day because there’s time for the water to run off into the existing system,” said Dennis Meek, the city’s acting engineer and independent contractor managing the project. “The detention basin is designed to stop that. The detention basin holds the quick water that shows up and fills up quickly then it drains down slowly.”

Meek referenced a few unusually intense rain storms over the past two decades, one in 2003 and one in 2015 as examples of when this detention basin would have been beneficial. Not only that, but the detention basin would prevent homes from flooding during summer storms that drop a lot of water in a short amount of time.

“In 2003, I was one of those people pushing sewer water out of my basement, so I can’t imagine two or three times a summer with that situation,” Councilman Thomas Grumley said.

The total cost of the project is $400,000, with the grant covering $150,000. The other $250,000 will come out of the city’s sewer fund.

“We have $2.3 million in the sewer account, I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” said Sam Zarafi, city auditor.

The main concern from council was with the city having to make payments on the wastewater treatment plant project, and would Girard be able to afford both. Zarafi assured the council the sewer fund would replenish itself as they still have 18 months before they need to worry about the plant.

Another concern, from Councilman John Moliterno was if this is a high priority cause because it only affects about two dozen people.

“We don’t want to spend the money just because we have it. We need to pay attention to what we’re spending it on and to how many people are impacted by what we spend,” said Moliterno, who referenced city recreation that affects hundreds of residents.

Melfi added that this area is one of the last that needs addressed as far as weather related issues go, making it a priority. The city has received the grant, and Melfi and service Director Jerry Lambert believe they shouldn’t throw the money away because Girard may not get the opportunity to do this improvement in the future.

“We have very few remaining wet weather problems in this town. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago, a lot of areas were always in trouble in wet weather events,” said Melfi. “When you get that unusual rain storm, you can almost rest assured that this area is where you’re going to get calls.”

The design of the project will begin prior to when the funding is available on July 1, 2020. Meek said construction will begin around September and end in November 2020.

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