GEORGETOWN — The torrential flooding that caused the deaths of three individuals in Ripley and could have killed even more in Georgetown was on the minds of members of Georgetown Village Council, the administration, and members of the audience at Georgetown’s second village council meeting of the month, held on July 23, 2015.
Two different members of the gallery addressed the village administration and village council about dealing with the consequences of the flooding and potentially fixing the problems so they don’t occur in the future.
First, John Cahall explained to village council how a village flush station on his property off pf Free Soil Road backed up into his home on the night of Saturday, July 18. His wife Candy first noticed the toilet in their bathroom bubbling, and eventually started shooting up water all over the bathroom.
“We tried everything we could to bail it out,” Cahall said. “We had garbage cans and they quickly filled up, the bathtub overflowed and looked like a falls, it came up through the sink and destroyed the sink.”
Faced with the prospect of having raw sewage and dirty water spread to the rest of their house from the bathroom, Cahall somehow found the inspiration to saw holes in the floor of his bathroom, to alleviate the flooding in his own home.
“I finally got it to a place where the water was retreating,” Cahall said. “If it had gone another four inches, it would have gone down into the basement, which is finished, and destroyed the basement, the furnace, and the kids’ toys.”
While he did make a smart heat-of-the-moment decision, Cahall said he would still be losing many valuables, including personal effects for him and his children that he kept in a crawl space that’s under the bathroom, which ended up housing much of that dirty water.
Now that the Cahalls are past the flooding, they’re looking to put their home back to how it was in the moments before the flooding.
Cahall said that a construction company estimates that to fix Cahall’s home it would cost around $26,000, and Cahall said that he’s already paid $10,000 of it. Cahall said that without his quick thinking in sawing the holes in the bathroom floor, the bill could have risen to $60,000.
But he’s looking for the village to cover the rest of costs, considering that it was a village piece of property that backed up into his home.
“It’s putting me back where I was on Saturday night (before the floods),” Cahall said.
Georgetown Mayor Dale Cahall and Administrator Art Owens both said that they would pass along John Cahall’s expenses to the village’s insurance company, and they were awaiting a claim and a response.
But Mayor Cahall also warned that a large reason for the flush station back-up was due to infiltration of storm water into the sewer drains.
“We’ve been fighting what’s been called I&I (inflow and infiltration) issues for probably 20 years,” Dale Cahall said. “We find them every now and then. We used to do smoke tests where we’d put smoke down the sewer and then it would come up through people’s gutters on top of their houses that would show us that they’re hooked up to the sanitary system.
“We’d have to tell them they have to disengage from that, and it’s still not perfect, there’s still a lot of that that goes on.”
Owens added, “I’ve gone to a couple of places (in Georgetown) and we have found that storm drains have been illegally tied in to the sanitary septic system, which has caused couple of places here in town to back-up. The storm water backs up but it’s tied to the sanitary septic system and it sends sewage back up the drain.”
Owens and Cahall confirmed that the act of connecting a storm drain with the sewage system has always been illegal in Georgetown, but people have been violating the ordinance for years and it’s been difficult to enforce.
In addition to John Cahall, Eleanor Sininger spoke about potentially bringing back ditches along her house on Green Acres Drive.
Sininger said that she had water in her basement as a result of the torrential downpour, and on the advice of her brother, she believed that if ditches were re-dug in the area, flooding could be averted.
“He says that I need to have some ditches drilled down from my end of Green Acres to the end of Green Acres, because all of those ditches are just grown over with grass and weeds and the water can’t go out, so it just rolls down to my house and my basement,” Sininger said.
Sininger explained that a similar flood occurred six years ago and that someone from the Georgetown administration came out to investigate the property to try and find an improvement.
In addition to discussing the flooding, Cahall officially swore in the five members of the Georgetown Tree Commission, which was designated by the village earlier this month in a bid to help Georgetown be named a “Tree City USA.”
The tree commission is made up of chairman Dr. Todd Williams, secretary Nancy Montgomery, Lucas Brown, Mike McHenry, and Sue McKinley.
“I consider this to be a very sweet occasion,” councilwoman Susan Bean said. “We’ve worked for a long time to get to this point and we’re going to have to work three times as hard to get to the next point, which is Tree City USA.”
The tree commission’s next meeting is Monday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m. at Georgetown village council chambers, beneath the Gaslight Theater. It is open to the public.
Lastly, village council approved two intra-fund transfers to move money between line-items regarding the fire department and payment for the new law firm supplying the village solicitor.
Village council also passed a resolution unanimously declaring a state of emergency in the village, which as Cahall explained was to help the village potentially receive state aid if the state determines aid money is necessary in the recovery from the flooding.
The next Georgetown village council meeting will take place on Thursday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.