Noting the abundant attendance, Mayor Julie Struck opened the meeting with a suggested change to the agenda allowing the public to speak after the approval of previous meeting minutes and consent agenda items. The city council quickly approved the agenda item move and sat ready to listen to the issues brought forward.
With several people signed up to speak, Mayor Struck worked down the list of four individuals who had noted that they wished to speak on the recent flooding of the city on several topics. A total of approximately 10 members of the public were seated along with Pacific County Emergency Agency Deputy (PCEMA) Director Scott McDougall, who was on hand if anything specific needed to be addressed from PCEMA.
Mayor Struck noted that she would allow everyone to speak before she would address any concerns from the public.
Cutting right to the chase of the matter, Central Avenue resident Gary Minnard wanted to understand who or what was responsible for the excessive water in the streets under the impression that with recent developments with the city water systems, there should not have been the problem that was experienced in the first place. His estimated his loss currently at over $3,000 and rising to home and vehicle with no compensation coming from his insurance.
He was also a little bothered by what he interpreted as disinterest from city workers and police as they just..."drove on by without even stopping to see if everyone was OK"... "I am really disappointed," said Minnard, adding that he was "not impressed at all with the government here."
Minnard also commented on the poor design of the city and the streets.
Angela Black from the South Bend Post Office brought out the issue of the lack of warning people were given about the situation and questions about previous grants that were given to fix the water problems in the city.
"I do not live in South Bend, but I spend most of my time here at the post office. For the past 15 years this is the second flood I have been though here, (and) this time we got 6 inches of water into the building," said Black.
"And if you guys (the city), got grant money to fix the water problems, how come it is still an issue? This is the second time it has impacted Central Avenue and it is populated primarily with elderly, and that is a problem. I just hope that things get fixed and not just bandaged," Black concluded.
Len Norris, a South Bend resident for 22 years and 12 days, spoke how he has had to evacuate every time there has been any flooding dating back to 1991.
"The first time I asked what was going to be done, and was told that the storm drain that runs down Central Avenue (circa 1910), would be fixed, replaced. The second time I asked again, and told the same thing," said Norris, "This last time it was a doozie. Every time my wife and I have had to evacuate, and in over 20 years, it has yet to be addressed. This is the worst we have ever had."
Richard Glover, another Central Avenue resident, had a few comments about city drainage grates, and even a possible solution to help the city.
"I think that if we could use the pond as a catch basin that might help," said Glover.
Having lived up and down Central Avenue, Glover has taken the next step as a South Bend resident and helps keep places of possible blockage clear, like grates, creek and pond.
"If given access, I could expand what I do and maintain at least one more grate nearby."
Mayor Struck thanked everyone who spoke and started to respond to comments.
"I have heard these concerns and will have to say that I was out of the home Saturday as I was going door-to-door talking to South Bend residents of homes that had been affected by the flood...and my heart goes out to all of you."
The mayor further explained that she too was impacted by the storm.
"My garage was under five inches of water as well."
She continued to inform the public that this specific incident was unpredicted and that no one saw what was happening. Mayor Struck also noted that if an alert was not initiated that she would take it upon herself to get one started if this happens again.
"We do not want to be caught off-guard again."
She also spoke about how the storm was being monitored, but that it had doubled in capacity at one point that no one really understood that this would be the outcome.
"It caught us all by surprise. And it is no fun for anyone."
The mayor advised that he current storm drain system was being evaluated, and noted that South Bend is just one city that is suffering from a plight that many cities are currently experiencing; the inability to manage ground water when it comes in excess. And gave the city of Shelton as an example.
When she broached the topic of grants and the legality of their use, the meeting started to get a little heated as a back-and-forth "chat" between the public and the city had to be disengaged as she continued on to other topics in her response.
Mayor Struck told the public that she will be having more barriers and signage for the sole purpose of an event like this, to help combat traffic creating waves during times of high water. Mayor Struck also advised that in a future event she is looking at more cooperation with entities like the South Bend Fire Department to assist in routing and controlling traffic.
"I would like to have manned positions that would limit traffic...if you live there you are allowed thorough. I want to eliminate the 'Looky-Lous', like we had this time."
The mayor also hoped that the citizens would pitch in as the city works through the issue of a more focused approach at managing the ground water. Several simple things like keep yards clear of debris that is swept away at times of high water; if you see a clog, maybe pitch in and help take care of it.
"It would help a lot if we kept our yards and our neighborhoods clean for times like this."
Mayor Struck tried to move out of the Public Comment period and get on with other city business, but spent a few more minutes on the topic of tides and their effect on the issue.
The meeting eventually moved on to other items.
A Resolution (2015-02) the Declaration of January 2015 Storm Damage, was presented and unanimously approved by the city council. The resolution listed 12 areas that had been impacted by the 8 inches of rain experienced by South Bend in the 24-hour period beginning on January 4.
Some of the items noted in the resolution were: landslides at Highway 101 and the boat launch, as well as the property located at 117 Ferry Street; washout of roads leading to Light Creek and Martin Creek Dams; drainage failures, culvert collapses, erosion and damage to the city shop and Water Treatment Facility.
It was further noted that the new Water Treatment Facility, though rated to only 7 million gallons per hour, exceeded its registered output and spit out over 10 million gallons of water per hour at its height.
Next week a further look at the South Bend City Council meeting speaking to the passing of Resolution 2015-01 (Six Year Transportation improvement), more on the possible creation of low-income housing and the new Police car now patrolling the area.
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