By Timothy Cox
ROCKFORD -- Residents want village officials to find a permanent fix to periodic flooding on the west edge of town.
Five residents from the West Market Street neighborhood told council members meeting Tuesday they are fed up with continuing water problems. In at least one case, the frequent water problems have caused severe property damage and health problems for one resident who lives in the path of periodic floodwater.
"The water problem seems to be getting worse," said resident Charlie Jackson, who has lived there for 50 years.
Jackson said the creation of new ball diamonds and paving the parking area at Shane's Park on the north edge of town was a mistake. The area is a natural drainage area and water now has nowhere to go, he said.
Resident John Hawk said he suspects the drainage tile running from Market Street to the St. Marys River is restricted or plugged. Village Administrator Jeff Long said he believes the pipes are mostly clear of natural obstructions, but said the tile does have a man-made restriction. Two drainage pipes -- 15-inch and 18-inch tiles -- come together into a 20 inch pipe near the park. That represents a drop of about one-third in volume of water that can be carried away after the bottleneck.
Replacing the tile is not a financially feasible option, village officials said. Engineers estimate a massive 66-inch tile would be needed to carry water between Market Street and the river at a cost of more than $1 million.
Instead, village officials are looking into the possibility of acquiring land along Rockford West Road to construct a retention pond to slow the flow of water through the neighborhood. Market Street becomes Rockford West Road outside the village limits.
The farmland is available, but at "development cost," which means the owner is seeking a premium price, Long said. But Long argued the land has little development value until the water problems are solved. He also suggested the village could seek to buy the land at fair market value through eminent domain court proceedings.
Council members urged residents to be patient as they research a solution.
"There is no quick fix. We want something that's going to be permanent so people can plant flowers in their front yard without them being washed to the other side of town," council member Eugene Steiner said.
Village officials still are awaiting cost estimates for a retention pond. Land acquisition costs also would have to be figured into the price, which could be split among benefiting property owners through a petition effort.
Randy Gutierrez, council president, questioned whether the county should be involved because the water is coming from unincorporated land in the county.
"The village of Rockford created the problem by developing over the natural waterway," Long said.
In the past when floodwaters have spilled across Rockford West Road and into the village, local officials have sandbagged the area to slow the flow of water toward homes in the area. However, Long said that probably will not happen in the future. By sandbagging, water is backed up onto the farmland and it is not legal to block the flow of water in that fashion, he said.