Five weeks after their homes were devastated, there's still no help for residents of the Bolingbrook subdivision in Shalerville.
Tuesday morning, State Sen. John Eklund visited with about 50 residents in the front yard of Kathy Slacas, a Greenwich Street resident who has been trying to rally property owners. Slacas had emailed state legislators and officials looking for help.
READ PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Shalersville residents upset by lack of flood aid (with video)
Eklund had already heard of the situation from Township Trustee Nancy Vines, who contacted him.
Vines said she thought he might have other avenues to look into. "People are upset and they have a right to be upset," she said.
"I just wish there was something I could do to help those people," Vines said.
READ PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Flooded Shalersville homeowners address Portage County commissioners (with video)
Eklund volunteered to try to get the township, county, state and others together to look for a permanent solution to the flooding.
Eklund said he wouldn't make any promises, but "what we need is to convene the township and the county and all of you folks." He offered to be that "convener" and to look if there is federal money available for a solution. He asked residents if they could set aside their frustration and distrust with county officials to work on that solution.
READ PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Storms bring attention to flood insurance
Slacas and others said they could, but "If they sing the same old song, we're not going to go for it," she warned. Slacas filed a lawsuit against county officials over the flooding three years ago, alleging the drainage system installed in the 1990s was inadequate.
Tucked into a sloping valley in the northwest corner of the township, about half of the 300 homes in the community were damaged by extremely high storm water runoff on July 10. Residents said the water was faster and higher than they'd ever seen it before. It left as quickly as it came, causing some to question if drain lines were plugged or shut down. At a meeting with Portage County commissioners, a couple people questioned if the county sewage treatment plant at the southern end of the neighborhood could have caused the high water, a charge county officials deny.
In a letter to residents, commissioners said "County systems were working properly and did not contribute to the flooding."
The development was built in the 1960s, when zoning, planning reviews and building inspections were nonexistent. Most of the houses are built on concrete slabs on the surface grade, with no height separation to keep flood waters at bay.
And the flooding happens over and over again, leaving residents frustrated at the lack of action by officials. Russ Novak said he and his wife were flooded 13 days after they moved into their Field Street home two years ago. That time only the rugs were destroyed, Novak said. This time, the house and furnishings were hit by a foot or more of water, mud and runoff from a neighboring corn field. Novak said he's one of the lucky ones because he has flood insurance. But he's still waiting for his claim to be paid before he can start repairing his home. And he's not even sure he wants to do that. He said his next-door neighbor "just closed the door and left."
Slacas said about a dozen homes have been abandoned.
One woman broke into tears when she talked about being flooded three times.
"Our homes are not worth what's owed. What are we going to do?" she asked. Residents have been trying to clean out their homes and start repairs while working their regular jobs. One person asked why there have been no volunteer groups to lend a hand.
After the previous flood in 2011, commissioners and the engineer sent a letter to residents that urged them to start a drainage petition and share the estimated $5,000 deposit. The cost of a permanent solution would be assessed to the property taxes of all residents within the watershed area, including adjoining and upstream property owners.
Residents shied away from the petition because they would be locked into paying the final cost without knowing it beforehand.
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