By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FAIRFIELD - A group that has threatened to sue the city over flooding is holding off after council members voted to hire two consulting firms to conduct flood studies.
Fairfield will pay $173,000 to look into improving drainage in neighborhoods affected by flooding, upgrading sewer lines and possibly buying flood-prone homes.
But the residents are taking a wait-and-see attitude, saying they have seen the city quickly respond before when floods sweep Fairfield only to then let the issue go unresolved.
"I feel OK about this, but I'm not totally satisfied," Tami Todd said following Monday's council meeting, which drew more than 100 residents.
Todd lives on the flood-prone Banker Drive and is the co-chair of a group called Fairfield Flood Victims 6/14 that formed in the wake of the June 14-15 flash floods.
More than 300 homes were damaged in Butler County, including 100 in Fairfield, where damages were estimated at about $1.5 million.
So now, the residents are steadfast in their quest to hold Fairfield accountable for repeated flooding - even if they have to file a class action lawsuit.
"The city does this every time," Todd said. "It sounds good every time, but are they going to stick to their guns this time? The citizens will. I hope the city carries their weight in what they say they are going to do."
While Fairfield leaders say they are committed to trying to resolve the problem, they have noted that they already have spent $10 million to build two retention basins to address flooding problems from the Pleasant Run Creek.
In addition to the new flood study, city officials also plan to submit an application to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency by Sept. 1 to purchase homes.
It is not known how many would qualify for the program, which would be voluntary. No one would be forced out, according to Jim Turner, Fairfield's engineer.
Nationally, there is $150 million in federal funds available, said Jim Rozelle of Fuller Mossbarger Scott & May Engineers Inc. of West Chester, an environmental engineering firm hired by the city.
The program is based primarily on repetitive losses and claims, he added.
But Todd said she and several homeowners don't file flood damage claims to their insurance companies on their homes' lower levels because there are too many coverage issues.
Councilman Ron D'Epifanio cautioned on Monday that homes will not be bought unless the government gives the city most of the money, as was the case last year when City Council voted to purchase a flood-prone home on Sir Lancelot Lane.
"We don't want to give false hope," he said.
While Councilman Jeffrey Holtegel said he wasn't opposed to the idea, he stressed that he did not want all homeowners thinking their home would be purchased.
But Councilman Mark Scharringhausen told him the city could not let the opportunity go by. "We have to get in the ballgame." he said.
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