By Timothy Cox
ROCKFORD -- With no prospects of public funding, village officials have asked Mercer County Commissioners to lead an effort to build a retaining pond west of town to alleviate severe street flooding caused by run-off from nearby farm fields.
If it goes forward, the project would be paid for by property owners who drain into the watershed in question. Officials estimate the area includes 400 acres or more.
A Rockford resident whose home sees the brunt of frequent flooding told village officials meeting Tuesday night that a solution is long overdue. Jayne Custer, 81, who has lived in the same home for 54 years, said the latest round of flooding was the worst it has ever been around her home.
"Nothing has been done to alleviate anything down there," Custer said. "I never saw so much water."
It will now be up to county commissioners to convene public hearings on the issue and determine public support for the project. County officials also must decide if the benefits of the proposed project outweigh the costs. Property owners eventually would be billed for the work, Rockford Village Administrator Jeff Long said, even if a pond is never built. Property owners still would have to pay the costs of any engineering done in studying the project.
Village officials were told last fall a five-acre pond outside of town would cost at least $200,000. Installing a massive drainage tile to ease the flooding problems is estimated at $1 million or more and deemed too expensive to be a viable solution.
Village officials had sought grant money to help pay for the project, but were rejected, Long said. The only way to proceed now is leaving the matter up to commissioners and affected property owners, he said.
Custer expressed frustration after she was told there will be no quick solution.
"You don't know what slow is," she fumed.
Engineering and other planning would likely take several months, village officials said. Just figuring out which properties drain into the area is a large task. Officials also must design the pond for best protection and conduct public hearings with the land owners involved. Also, because the land for the pond is not available, an eminent domain court proceeding also could slow matters.