Barberton Residents Still Dealing With Flooding Problems

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BARBERTON, Ohio-- Nearly two weeks after floodwaters engulfed the city of Barberton, there is still a lot to clean up.

At one home on Wooster Road, the water has yet to completely receed from the basement where mud and filth are ankle deep.

The floodwater reached the basement rafters. Everything in the basement needs to be thrown out, but neighbors say the owner is in a nursing home; the man who visits the house for her has no power of attorney to do anything and she has no family.

If it goes unaddressed, neighbors worry about the health problems that could leave the entire house unfit to live in.

Nearby, James Grebenstein has yet to reopen his business.

Grebenstein has done as much as he can to try and clean up after flooding filled the basement to the first floor.

For the time being, he cannot complete the job because water continues to seep into the basement.

"People don't want to smell that mold. I don't want them to smell it. You know you come in here and you turn that air conditioner on and all that all this duct work has to be cleaned out. I threw half of it away already, and I'm still waiting on the insurance company. I don't have the money, so we're going to just sit still, I guess," said Grebenstein.

Many in the flooded communities remain critical of city officials for not having done enough over the years to be able to avoid such flooding.

Barberton's Storm Water Engineer, Alan Keltyka, has been on the receiving end of much of that criticism.

"I have been here 14 years. This is the worst storm that I have seen based on historical records. It probably exceeds any storm since the hurricane hit us in 1978, 79," said Keltyka.

The city offered help for cleanup and financial help for replacing damaged appliances up to a limit of about $122,000 that it set aside, according to Keltyka.

The funds are now all exhausted.

The county surveyed the area last Wednesday to see if it could be officially declared a disaster area and become eligible for federal assistance.

Keltyka says there was not enough damage to qualify.

But he says city hall has received hundreds of calls for help and "we are still finding problems hourly."

"It takes more than we have available at the present time. We have exhausted a lot of our resources. Different departments have contributed different things; some have contributed money; some have contributed time. We have a lot of people who have worked overtime. We have a lot of crews that are still out looking at problems. We are still answering complaints about basements," said Keltyka.

Many of the people are resigned to the fact that their insurance will not completely restore everything that was damaged or lost.

What they really want is for the city to do something to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Keltyka says his office has been contacted by FEMA to work on a plan that might help, but not something that can be done right away.

"Not so much to deal with the problems the people have right now, but dealing with how to reduce the effects on the people in the future, in the next floods," said Keltyka.

He says the city is also exploring the possibility of using some of its funds to buy properties that repeatedly flood, something it has done in the past to create retention ponds.

For the time being, however, he says there is very little additional help available to those who are cleaning up from the last storms.

"We are pretty limited in what we can do because we have received no outside funding for this storm and we don't really anticipate we are going to get any," said Keltyka.

Some, like property owner Drew Koncz, whose apartment building has been flooded three times, do not hold the city responsible.

"It ain't the city's fault that they built on that property. It ain't the city's fault that I bought in a flood zone, but I was smart enough to keep flood insurance." said Koncz, adding, "I believe FEMA should come in and buy people out, but does FEMA have any money? I don't know."

*Click here for more on the flooding*