A petition for drainage improvement to the Fancher Road watershed was unanimously approved by Delaware County commissioners after more than an hour-long public hearing on Thursday.
Fancher Road is in Harlem Township, in the southeast corner of the county.
The petition was filed in October 2015 by a resident in the watershed whose property is affected by drainage. The petition wants the county “to generally improve the drainage, both surface and subsurface to a good and sufficient outlet, by replacing, repairing or altering the existing improvement as required and/or creating new surface and subsurface drainage mains or laterals as requested.”
Scott Stephens, resource conservation program coordinator for the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District, gave a report to commissioners. The district, along with the county engineer’s office, said the drainage system is not functioning well due to a lack of maintenance and a deteriorated infrastructure. The improvements, which include subsurface drain installation, driveway culverts, surface drain shaping and grading, grade stabilization, seed and mulching, and tree/brush/debris clearing, will cost $64,593.60. The amount would be assessed to the property owners of 20 parcels in the watershed area over an eight-year period.
“Based on all of the information gathered and generated for this project, I believe this project is technically feasible and would adequately serve the project area’s drainage needs,” Stephens said. “However, the testimony brought to the board by the landowners as to whether the benefits of this project exceed the costs, should be given significant consideration in the decision to move forward with this project.”
Some of the residents who spoke at the hearing were in support of the petition, others were opposed, and some said they were neutral. Those in favor said that rains caused standing water to form in their backyards and household flooding occurred. They said the drainage affected the resale value of their home. Those who were opposed to the petition said they had already fixed drainage problems on their property by themselves and at their own expense. In addition, they said most of the owners are retired and wouldn’t be able to afford the assessment.
A few residents told commissioners 95 acres of land are for sale across from Fancher Road, and that future development could further affect drainage in the area.
After the public had their say, Commissioner Gary Merrell asked Stephens if their testimony changed his recommendation. Stephens said it didn’t.
“These always are very difficult for us as commissioners, but we have to do what is required of us,” Merrell said before making a motion to grant the petition. “Water comes over another’s property from upstream, so the people from upstream don’t see the problem as created, and never feel that they should be obligated to fix the problem. Our obligation is if you’re part of the watershed, you’re part of the problem. Our consideration can’t be on what cost that one has already been put into the property. It’s the impact we have on our neighbors, and we have to take that into consideration.”
Before work can proceed, more detailed plans and a schedule of assessments will be prepared for commissioners to sign off on at a final hearing. Stevens said other projects of this nature have taken 18 months to complete.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.