Monday, July 28, 2003

City, victims tangle over last month's flooding

Fairfield residents threaten suit

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FAIRFIELD - Another showdown over flooding is expected today at City Council, with activists vowing they will keep pushing for answers and solutions.

Fairfield plans to hire consultants to make recommendations about what could be done in the wake of last month's floods, which damaged about 100 homes.

The city's customer service manager, Dave Crouch, pledged his assistance to residents at a meeting last week when more than 50 of them gathered to discuss their concerns and options, which include a class action lawsuit against the city.

"We are never going to get anywhere if we can't somehow continue with a good, diplomatic dialogue, with the city understanding the needs of the community and the community understanding the city and the hoops we have to jump through," Crouch said Friday. "It's like this war against Mother Nature."

But about 75 residents, who have formed a group called Fairfield Flood Victims 6/14, say they want "real" answers from the city this time about continuing flood problems.

They vow they won't go away until the matter is resolved.

The co-chairwoman of the group, Tami Todd, has even consulted an attorney, whom she declined to name Thursday.

That attorney, she told the group, recommended three options: sue, use publicity and boycotts of public buildings, or elect a council member devoted to the issue.

"When we come to a wall, a conclusion in my mind is we're probably going to have to sue (the city)," Todd told the group.

But, she added, it is only fair to try to resolve the matter first with the city.

The group also drew up a list of several questions they plan to pose today to city leaders. Those include whether the city will buy their homes.

Last year, the city bought a $92,000 flood-prone home on Sir Lancelot Lane with the help of a state grant that was available from a previous disaster declared in 2000.

But after floods damaged so many Fairfield homes last month, city leaders noted they have already spent $10 million to build two retention basins to address flooding problems from the Pleasant Run Creek. There's not much more they can do, they maintained.

Some Fairfield neighborhoods are built in low-lying areas, especially those near the creek.

On Friday, Councilman Ron D'Epifanio said the city wasn't planning to buy the residents' homes unless the government footed most of the bill via grants or other assistance.

"Where are we going to get that kind of money?" he asked. "And where do you stop? Now, if the government or state jumps in like they did on the house on Sir Lancelot, we would jump on that in a minute. But is the state going to do that? We don't know. And it doesn't happen overnight."

If you go

What: Fairfield City Council work session and meeting

Where: Fairfield Municipal Building, 5350 Pleasant Ave.When: The work session begins at 6 p.m. today, followed by the 7 p.m. meeting



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