Program aims to stem flooding issues on residential property

by Dan Holland

An initiative passed by Independence City Council in summer 2021 has seen some success in completing projects aimed at stemming flooding and stormwater issues on residential properties within the city. The ordinance, which was designed to address stormwater drainage, creek maintenance and erosion control by establishing a public-private partnership program between the city and its residents, was introduced by Councilperson Jim Trakas.

“This all came about a couple years ago when residents were becoming frustrated with projects that would be out of their budget to complete. They can be very expensive, and not something most residents can do on their own property,” explained Trakas. “Mayor [Greg] Kurtz was very enthusiastic about it, and worked very closely on how to put it together. We worked with residents who had rather large-scale flooding problems on private property with streams, bridges or other issues.”

The legislation allows the city to come onto private property, hire a contractor and perform all necessary engineering work. Residents may be billed up to 70% of the total cost, which can be paid over a 20- to 30-year period through property taxes, said Trakas.

A condition on his own property prompted Trakas to introduce the legislation to provide a path for residents to effectively remedy water issues.

“My yard had flooding years back before I was on council, and I spent $15,000 out-of-pocket to place some very expensive flood control measures in my yard,” he said. “I was fortunate in that I had a Heritage Loan from the county to improve my house at the time, which was the only way I could afford to do that. It gave me pause to realize that most of these projects go undone because they’re so expensive.”

Five projects were completed in the city in 2022, although there may be as many as 200 residential properties that could potentially benefit from the program, according to Trakas. The total cost of completing all projects could run between $10 million to $15 million – far beyond the means of the city’s budget.

“We do want to encourage residents to consider the program; it doesn’t cost much up front, but a little on the back end,” added Trakas. “And if the homeowner ends up selling the house, the new homeowner would pay the bill on it since they get the benefit of the work. It doesn’t have to be paid off upon sale of the house.”

Interested residents should contact the city engineer’s office to determine if a property qualifies for the program. Often, the program is aimed at alleviating flooding conditions on a number of adjacent properties, he added.

“Residents who have taken advantage of the program so far have been pleased,” said Trakas. “They’ve taken care of problems they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and solved the problem. So far, it’s had limited use, but we’re trying to encourage people to consider this for solving long-term expensive problems.” ∞