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Evansville debates neighborhood flooding solutions

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GINA R. HEINE
October 21, 2007
— Engineers still are working to determine the best solutions to flooding problems in some of Evansville’s west-side neighborhoods as city committees explore ways to finance such projects.

One solution includes creating a storm water utility, city council president Mason Braunschweig said.


After more than 9 inches of rain fell between Aug. 4-6, drainage easements meant to carry water to detention ponds turned into “lakes” up to 200 feet wide in backyards along South Sixth Street.


Although officials say the drainage system was designed for a 100-year event, the rains overflowed it, flooding backyards and basements on at least two occasions in the last four years.


The city is working to set up a meeting with engineers to decide on a solution to the problem, but in the meantime council members are discussing possible funding sources, said Braunschweig, also the chair of the public works committee.


“I can’t tell you what (the project) will be, but what I can do is plan for potential financing,” he said.


Discussion at Tuesday’s public works meeting will include the idea of starting a storm water utility, Braunschweig said. Such a move would allow certain costs that deal with storm water issues to be funded through a utility rather than general revenue tax.


The idea is becoming more common among cities for a variety of reasons, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said. Storm water expenses are increasing as the state puts additional requirements on how storm water drainage is handled, he said.


“It’s becoming a greater expense on the cities,” he said.


Those that receive the benefits of such a utility are the ones paying their proportionate share, he said. Bills would be based on the amount of runoff a home or business is creating, not on the property value.


“I think it makes a lot of sense,” Wietecha said, noting the idea had a “decent reception” by the entire council at its strategic planning session Oct. 13.


A utility would potentially increase the city’s revenue sources because tax-exempt entities such as schools and churches would pay a utility bill.


While there’s no solution to the drainage problems, Braunschweig said it is “very high” among the council’s priorities.


DEADLINE IS THURSDAY

Wisconsin residents and business owners who sustained damage from storms and flooding between Aug. 18 and 31 have until Thursday to apply for federal disaster assistance.


The Thursday deadline marks the end of the application period, which started Aug. 26, when President Bush issued the major disaster declaration.


To apply, call FEMA’s toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


Residents also can apply anytime at www.fema.gov.


Loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration for disaster-related losses to real and personal property and businesses also must be submitted by Thursday.


“Even those who have insurance should apply by Oct. 25 if their home or business suffered damage in the August flooding,” said Diane Kleiboer, state coordinating officer of Wisconsin Emergency Management. “People may find that they still have needs after the insurance settlement and may qualify for financial assistance in the form of a low-interest disaster loan or grant.”


Residents waiting for a final insurance settlement should contact the FEMA Helpline at the same numbers above if their claim is paid or for any other updates to their claim information. If there have been changes to contact information, for example, applicants should call to ensure they receive assistance as quickly as possible.



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