Saks homeowner blames county for drainage issues, county blames state
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Jul 22, 2013 | 4209 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston resident Steve Cook talks about the flooding issues that he blames the county for. Cook owns rental property in Saks, with the back yard bordering Lenlock Lane. He says that in heavy persistent rain, it floods his back yard, and recently entered his basement doing several thousand dollars worth of damage. Photo by Trent Penny.
Anniston resident Steve Cook talks about the flooding issues that he blames the county for. Cook owns rental property in Saks, with the back yard bordering Lenlock Lane. He says that in heavy persistent rain, it floods his back yard, and recently entered his basement doing several thousand dollars worth of damage. Photo by Trent Penny.
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SAKS – An angry resident says the county’s at fault for flood damage to his property near Lenlock Lane. But one county official says state road construction has poured runoff into a Saks neighborhood.

Before this summer, Steve Cook said the last time his home on Jerome Circle flooded was in 1971. But in the last three months, the retired life-long Calhoun County resident said, he’s invested more than $5,000 in trying to clean up the for-sale property from water damage that’s crept from a drainage ditch on Lenlock Lane, through his backyard, and into the finished basement of the house.

“Nobody wants to buy a house that floods every time it rains,” Cook said Monday, showing where he pulled up the carpet in his basement, and pointing out wallboard showing water damage from what he estimated was 5 inches of flooding in May.

“It almost reached the house again last week,” Cook said.

Calhoun County has been especially prone to flooding this year, with precipitation rates on record pace. Through the first six months of 2013, the National Weather Service recorded more than 40 inches of rainfall in Anniston – nearly matching all of 2012’s total output.

But the real problem, according to Calhoun County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm, is the still-unfinished Veterans Memorial Parkway, which has dumped runoff into the area between U.S. 431 and Alabama 21.

“Even before the construction, we had a lot of residents who expressed concern this might happen,” Rosenbalm said. “And it looks like it’s happening.

Cook’s home is about a mile from the new highway’s under-construction intersection with Alabama 21 and U.S. 431 near McClellan. Rosenbalm said the Alabama Department of Transportation has scheduled to begin work on a retention lake near where Lenlock Lane intersects U.S. 431, which could alleviate the problem.

Attempts Monday to reach the Department of Transportation were unsuccessful.

But Cook said the problem isn’t the state’s fault, and the fix has nothing to do with the highway. The problem, he said, is that the county isn’t doing enough to maintain the drainage in the area. A ditch that lines the embankment on Lenlock Lane hasn’t been cleaned or cut in more than year, Cook said.

“That isn’t my property,” Cook said. “That’s their job to maintain that.”

Calhoun County Commissioner J.D. Hess said he’s received several complaints from Saks residents this year about flooding problems, and they haven’t fallen on deaf ears.

“I can’t even tell you how many calls I’ve gotten,” Hess said. “Something needs to be done about the area.”

But how much officials can actually do about the problem isn’t clear, said Brian Rosenbalm, Calhoun County’s engineer. For starters, he said, Cook’s property on Jerome Circle is in the middle of a federally designated flood zone. For another, it isn’t the county’s responsibility to take care of residents’ private property, he said.

“The best thing we can do is maintain ditches on roadways and clean underground pipes,” Rosenbalm said. “But some places we can only mow once or twice a year. It’s maintenance, but it’s a different kind of maintenance than people can do on their own property.”

Hess said he’s sympathetic to residents in the area, and no matter what the root of the problem is – excessive rain, improper drainage, or nearby construction – it’s his job to come up with a solution, one which could involve a redesign of drainage on county roads.

“I’ve been talking a lot to the roads department, and we need to come up with a master plan,” Hess said. “There’s flooding all over the country, not just Calhoun County, but I’m a commissioner in Calhoun County. We got to do something here.”

But Cook isn’t concerned with a master plan. The fix, he said, is simple. Take care of the drainage ditch, the one built to take care of the potential flood waters back when his parents bought the house on Jerome Circle in the 1960s.

“It didn’t flood for 40 years when we would clean up the ditch,” Cook said. “That’s what it was built for.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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