By Adam Aasen
Angry residents of Emerson Road in downtown Carmel vented their frustrations to the city council about flooding in the area that has been an issue for several years.
Several neighbors spoke about the drainage problems, hoping that someone in city government could find the money to fix the issue. They said the flooded streets can be so bad that they can’t go to work or receive ambulances in medical emergencies.
Desra Simons spoke at the meeting, asking her disabled husband and son to stand for the crowd. She said they both have serious medical needs and the flooding puts them at risk if they have a sudden emergency.
“I have no tolerance for anyone who stand in the way of keeping them safe, hence the anger and frustration you hear in my voice,” she said.
Mayor Jim Brainard and the city council all agreed at the meeting that money should be taken out of the city’s “rainy day” reserve fund to fix the problem. But they got hung up on the process to make it happen.
Council President Eric Seidensticker said he has asked for an estimate of the costs, but Brainard said no estimate can be given until city engineering does a review of the site.
Unfortunately, Brainard said there’s no money in the budget right now to even start with engineering. So now the council has to first vote to appropriate money for engineering and once the estimate is in, then do a second appropriation for the project costs.
The City Council voted unanimously to approve a bill funding $1 for the project with the idea that the actual amount would be filled in later. It’s believed the final project cost could be a few million dollars, maybe up to $4 million to improve the capacity of nearby Little Cool Creek which drains the neighborhood’s streets.
There’s been no disagreement among the council members or the mayor about the severity of this issue, but some elected officials have steered the conversation back to the idea of “Who is to blame?”
And it’s hard to not politicize the issue when it ties so closely into the proposed establishment of a stormwater utility, which would be funded through a fee charged to every household.
Every time a fee or tax is approved, political differences are evident. Despite that, several councilors promised that they would bring the stormwater ordinance up for a vote soon and bring it out of its nearly year-long stay in committee.
Meanwhile, the residents say they are fed up with the process.
“I understand there has been a lot of work done, but there needs to be more,” said Emerson Road resident Charles Demler. “We need the help of the mayor and the city council to work together to solve this problem.”
Simons said she disagrees with the government’s funding priorities at times.
“The definition of irony,” she said, “is that we can see the reflection of the beautiful multi-million dollar performing arts center in the water of flooded streets.”