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Huntertown ditch plan to ease flooding OK'd

Members of the Allen County Drainage Board approved a plan Thursday to reconstruct a ditch in Huntertown but asked town officials to consider picking up the public’s portion of the construction fees.

Huntertown must pay nearly $400,000 of the total cost of $452,625 for the restoration of Ferguson Ditch, and the rest will be split among residents within the watershed area. Residents will be assessed a one-time fee of $211 and after that, a yearly maintenance fee of $35 an acre.

“Can the town pick up the extra costs instead of putting it on your constituents?” drainage board member and County Commissioner Linda Bloom asked Huntertown Council president Pat Freck.

She said she could not speak for all five board members, but the board would discuss it at Tuesday’s meeting.

The condition of the ditch has been blamed for many of Huntertown’s problems with infiltration into the stormwater system, caused by excessive rainwater or melting snow – specifically in the town’s older sections, including the downtown area. The town is charged per gallon by Fort Wayne City Utilities for sewage treatment, and infiltration can dramatically increase flow and costs.

Newer, larger and tighter-fitting storm pipes are needed to replace the existing failing system, County Surveyor Al Frisinger said.

Landowners will benefit from the new construction because the new pipes will reduce the amount of stormwater in the sanitary sewer system and in turn, reduce flooding, particularly along Washington and Main streets and Myers Drive, he said.

Three residents wrote letters opposing the plan.

Sandra Grimm, one of the residents, was in attendance. She questioned whether the town was making the most economical decision.

“The costs will be devastating to the families (in the watershed area),” Grimm said in a letter. “We are strapped as it is and many are on a fixed income.”

Residents Chuck and Karen Smith wrote that the cost was outrageous and too much money spread among too few residents.

“State law is clear,” Frisinger said. “Ditch reconstruction is assessed to those people within the watershed and we are not allowed to assess those outside the area.”

Two spoke in favor of the project including Freck and fellow council member, Jim Fortman.