Friday, July 18, 2003

Eight flood-prone homes to be razed in Delhi Twp.

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Soaked drywall had to be cut away in Dianna Wohlfrom's finished basement. Her home will be demolished.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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Three weeks after moving into their Delhi Township home in 1997, Richard and Amy Kraft suffered a flooded basement. Richard Kraft was told it was an unusually bad storm, so he went ahead and remodeled the basement.

Then the brick three-bedroom flooded again. And again.

"They called it a 100-year storm, and we had three of them in the first year," said Richard Kraft, 42, who shares the house with his wife and two children.

After six years of battling repeated flooding, relief is finally in sight for the Krafts and seven of their neighbors. In an unusual move, the Metropolitan Sewer District is buying eight homes on Schroer and Glenroy avenues. Hamilton County commissioners are expected to approve the plan July 28, and the sewer district hopes to finish buying the houses by fall, Deputy Director Bob Campbell said.

The homes will be torn down and replaced with a retention pond that should cover about four of the lots, county Public Works Director Gary Van Hart said. The pond will capture rainwater and release it slowly.

[IMAGE] The storm drain behind the Wohlfrom house "shoots up like a geyser" in heavy rains.
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The sewer district gets 250 basement flooding complaints a year, yet officials can remember offering buyouts only one other time. That was about two years ago, when the sewer district and Cincinnati split the $300,000 cost of buying and demolishing two homes in Avondale, Campbell said.

"It's a pretty drastic measure," he said. "We try not to buy homes."

The houses on Schroer have flooded almost since they were built in 1954, some longtime residents say. The problem got worse after a new home was built on the street in 1993.

"Our infrastructure's just terrible," said Frank "Jerry" Wohlfrom, who has been in his house on Glenroy for about 17 years. "They keep adding more and more houses and they don't build any more sewers."

For the past decade, Wohlfrom has had to clean sewage from his basement two to four times a year. Wife Dianna was hospitalized after getting ill during one cleanup effort.

Sewage also spews, fountain-like, from a drain in the back yard, she said.

"We've picked up condoms in the yard - you name it, we've picked it up," Dianna Wohlfrom said.

County Commissioner Todd Portune, who helped focus attention on the residents' plight, said the county should never have issued a building permit for the newest home.

"The simplest answer seems to be that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing," Portune said.

The sewer district studied the neighborhood's flood problems in 2000 and found that during heavy rains water pours into the bowl-shaped area. The storm water leaks into some basements, where it gets into the sanitary sewer through drains and toilets, Campbell said. The influx overloads the pipes, and storm water and sewage come up through drains and toilets in other basements.

Armed with the study, the township found grants to fix the problem. The federal and state Emergency Management agencies are contributing $604,500, with about $200,000 from the sewer district and Delhi Township. The money will buy the eight most directly affected homes and also help flood-proof 10 more.

The county and township got additional grants to pay 90 percent of the estimated $2.9 million cost to tear down the houses, build the retention pond, and rebuild Schroer, Glenroy and Greenwell Road. The district will spend about $500,000 more to repair the sewers in the area.

Normally, instead of tearing down a house, the district usually will slip a lining inside a defective pipe or, in more extreme cases, tear up the street to repair and replace pipes. The district is spending about $10 million in North College Hill this year.

Residents of Schroer and Glenroy have long wanted the district to buy their houses.

"It should have happened a long time ago," said Kraft, who like the other homeowners couldn't sell because of the flooding problems. He paid about $81,500 for his house and expects to get at least $92,000 for it.

"I will be (happy) when I walk off this property for the last time," Kraft said. "Right now every time it rains I worry."


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