Akron residents displaced by flooding they say was worsened by city project

AKRON, Ohio -- Akron residents were forced out of their homes by flooding that has plagued their neighborhood.

The City of Akron notes the area near West Linwood Avenue and Hackberry Street is low-lying and has been historically prone to flooding, but residents said the problem worsened dramatically following the city's Wilbeth Wetlands project.

Brigette Sasz still had several inches of water in her basement, three days after
Sunday's storms caused the latest flooding problem. Her utilities had to be shut off, and the Red Cross put her up in a local hotel for the week.

"It's very stressful to live here, to see basically your life's work going underwater," Sasz said.

Neighbor Breesha Taylor and her family were also staying in a hotel after more than a foot of water inundated her basement, soiling clothing and other items and wrecking appliances.

"They cut the power off, the gas off, then I realized yesterday the meters had been pulled from the electric company," Taylor said.

They said the issues began after a storm sewer was replaced by a natural channel during the city's Wilbeth Wetlands project in 2016. Since then, Taylor and Sasz said the wetlands have overflowed into their backyard, creating a standing pond of trash-filled water. The water level rose and entered their homes after Sunday's rains.

"We knew this was coming," Sasz said. "It wasn't an if, it was just a matter of when."

City of Akron officials declined to answer questions in an interview, but in a statement sent to FOX 8 News, City Press Secretary Ellen Lander-Nischt said the city installed a pump last July to remove water from the area.

"Prior to this heavy rain event, the city has been able to maintain the level of water behind the homes, utilizing the pump, and has had no reports of storm water in the area other than private sump pumps running," she said.

Lander-Nischt said Sunday's rainfall caused the water level around the pump to rise, and the area that water was being pumped to could no longer accommodate more water, so the pump was temporarily removed before being placed back into service Wednesday morning.

The city also contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for assistance, and ODNR let more water flow through Lock 1 to gradually help lower water levels in the area. City crews brought in sand bags to help reduce flooding at the two duplexes where residents have been displaced.

However, neighbors are seeking a long-term solution that will prevent the problem from recurring. Both Taylor and Sasz said they hope the city will consider purchasing the properties and help reimburse the cost of replacing and fixing items damaged in the flood.

"Just keeping my fingers crossed and keeping my faith," Taylor said. "If I could get down there and suck all that water out to save our homes, I would. I would. These are nice homes, great neighborhood, great people. We don't deserve this."