By Timothy Cox
The village of Rockford has been rejected for an emergency grant that would have helped pay for a retention pond on the west side of town to curb persistent flooding problems.
Denial of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant means Mercer County Commissioners likely will end a public petition effort sought by the village to build a pond paid for by all property owners in the watershed.
There are about 200 property owners in the watershed being looked at, and a total of about 300 acres of land. If county officials still decide to pursue a flood fix for the area, the property owners would share the cost, estimated by Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart to be $335,934, which includes land acquisition and construction of an 8-acre pond.
That cost outweighs the benefits of building a pond because most property owners in the watershed have no current water problems, Wiechart has said. Those property owners would be on the hook for a portion of the project cost because water from their land drains in to the flood-prone area along West Market Street on the west side of the village.
Commissioners said during a May public hearing on the issue they would be hesitant to pursue the project without grant assistance. The FEMA grant would have covered 75 percent of the cost. Mercer County has never had a retention pond built by public petition effort, Wiechart said.
Mercer County had a total of three projects rejected for emergency FEMA funding, county emergency management Director Wanda Dicke said. In addition to the Rockford project, county officials also had sought emergency funding to clean the St. Marys River of logjams and to purchase NOAA weather radios as part of an effort to make the county compliant with the StormReady program.
There was a lot of competition for the grants, especially since 69 of Ohio's 88 counties had disaster declarations due to the January ice storm and flooding, Dicke said.
Dicke said she believes the Rockford project was rejected for the grant because it benefits only a few households. Persistent flooding along West Market Street in the village affects only a few properties.
"It's a very valid project but it affects a very few amount of people," she said.
Some county officials have suggested that Rockford officials look into buying and vacating the flood-prone properties. Doing so might be cheaper than pursuing a permanent fix to flood problems, they said.