Evansville trying to buy properties to fix water issues

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June 3, 2009
— The city hopes to negotiate the purchase of land from two property owners as part of a continuing effort to address a west-side flooding problem, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said.

The affected properties are:

-- 2.9 acres owned by William Rundle and Kristine Chilsen. The farmland is west of the existing storm water pond at Sixth Street and Vision Drive.

-- 0.63 acres owned by the Roxann Grenlund Metzger Trust. The agricultural drainage ditch is adjacent to the west side of the Rundle property.

The city wants to buy the property to build a larger capacity detention pond.

If the land purchase cannot be negotiated, the city would use eminent domain to acquire the property, Wietecha said.

"As we sit down with property owners, coming up later spring/summer, hopefully we can come to some agreement quickly," he said. "If they don't want to, that's not going to stop the project."

State statutes dictate the eminent domain procedure, Wietecha said.

"We're basically just following the steps that it requires," he said.

The city has hired an appraiser to examine the properties, and the city notified residents in the area of the plan, he said.

An early part of the process will be an attempt to negotiate a voluntary sale, he said.

Construction of the pond could begin this fall.

The plan is a result of months of work after heavy rainfall in August 2007 caused flooding in the backyards of homes along Sixth Street, sending residents to City Hall demanding a solution. The problem also had occurred in 2004.

The land would allow for a bigger area for water to accumulate, and the water would flow directly into an existing drainage ditch, public works committee chair Mason Braunschweig said.

"We've been advised by our engineers, and it's gone through plan commission that this is the best available solution," he said.

The existing pond at the end of Vision Drive likely would be filled in, and the lot could be sold or even made into a park, Braunschweig said.

Jim Brooks, who lives on South Sixth Street and is a member of the plan commission, said the plan would relieve some of the pressure on the Vision Drive pond.

"I think it's a necessary step in the storm water management process for Evansville," he said. "I think it's the next logical step. So many things have been tried that haven't worked."

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