Saturday, July 11, 2015

The native habitat of pokeweed, in storm drains, by one-way streets, but hey -- let's go swimming.

A tree grows from the storm water grate. Move along; nothing to see here. After all, it's New Albany.

I decided to have some Fb fun with it.

Tonight, I'm announcing a pioneering new civic initiative: The Storm Grate Beautification Project. Citizens can farm their own plots just like this one, with the street department serving as default soil banker, using TIF funds not to exceed $3 million. It's a when-when proposition, folks.

Meanwhile, the original post generated a discussion, the highlights of which are worth recapping. There isn't a conclusion. At times, knowledge is gained via the journey itself.

Ann Streckfus: Where is this?

Roger A. Baylor: Northeast corner of 11th and Market.

AS: I think things like this really should be taken care of by the property or business owner that this is in front of. Can't expect the city to have the manpower to weedeat and Roundup everything. We clean our sidewalks, street copings, etc.

RAB: If this is the expectation, it doesn't bother me. What's the obligation to make this known? Is there an enforcement mechanism? Do we budget for it in Stormwater?

AS: I have seen city workers cleaning around storm drains, so I know that they do try to address weeds and debris that affect drainage. But this is also a matter of citizens showing pride in their neighborhood and keeping up with the smaller details like weeds in pavement and sidewalks. Some will ignore any enforcement mechanism. It may not be 'fair' but those of us who are proud of our neighborhood will be the ones who'll handle this type of thing.

RAB: Voluntary -- rather like slumlords and their self-enforcement mechanism.

AS: There are always going to be slumlords and slobs who don't care a bit what their environment is like or how it affects others. All the laws and ordinances will do nothing about them. Many of them will spend more money fighting those laws and ordinances than simply doing what it would take for them to comply.

RAB: Yes. So, how do we have a system of law given this sentiment? Do we give up and merely prune our own medians? I'm not being combative, just finding the implications rather disheartening.

Randy Smith: How many lots should each responsible householder be responsible for? For if your neighbor on the left and your neighbor on the right don't agree with you, Ann, where do you give up and rely on taxpayer maintenance of the streets?

AS: If I had to come up with a system this is what I would do. I put together a budget of what it costs to maintain areas within the city such as medians and other city-owned common areas. Then I would determine if a specific city department is responsible for that area, for example, storm water handling the storm drains, and assign each that responsibility. This may already be the way the city handles it. Then in a mailing, perhaps inserted into everyone's sewer bill, I would include a flyer with bullet points telling citizens things they can do to help keep the city looking good. I think you have to put some responsibility on the citizens. We cannot expect the city to have the manpower to take care of every minute cosmetic detail.

RAB: True. And we can't all be responsible for paying for cosmetic details better left to property owners, although there are lamentable exceptions.

AS: Speaking for myself only, if my neighbor to the right or left (or both) didn't agree and didn't maintain the areas, I'd do it.

RS: And the streets? and the next 2 neighbors? And the next 2? Here's an idea. Let's collect taxes from every property owner and hire someone to make sure every curb, sidewalk, gutter, and street are kept up. I know it's a radical idea.

AS: BTW, that's a pokeweed and not a tree. It takes about 5 minutes to walk down one block and spray Roundup -- for the next 2 neighbors, and the next 2, and so on . . .

Jeff Gillenwater It would take at least a couple hours to recount the absurdities of City "maintenance" we've encountered just on our corner. What used to be a strong, concentrated effort on my part to make up for that has gradually devolved into bare minimums. No more cleaning multiple drains on a regular basis for me. If it weren't raining today, I'd likely be mowing the sidewalk, though, and dousing the entire perimeter in chemicals for the fourth time this season as "Improvements" have led to increased drainage issues and a curb jagged enough to cut car tires regularly gets reseeded with the debris that collects. Great to see the street sweeping program being expanded, though, given how obviously ineffective it is. If this City competently expended already available resources on basic, functioning infrastructure rather than allowing it to languish in favor of high dollar, lower impact specialized projects, the burden on citizens to fill the gap could be significantly reduced. That is, after all, what we pay for. Taking care of or improving that infrastructure is what TIF is for as well, though it's difficult to tell that in New Albany based on actual usage. As is, it becomes clear pretty quickly that so many individual efforts are swimming against the City current, not with it. It's no wonder floating is a popular choice. "Never mind the rampant waste, lack of transparency, and obvious political gamesmanship. Have pride and do it all yourself." It's like paying someone to mug you.

RS: Atlas Shrugged.

Wanda Vest: I now make half what I made 4 years ago and can not afford Round Up for my neighborhood.

RAB: Jeff Gillenwater, are you trying to say that you didn't get any trickle over from the Main Street beautification project?

JG: Not yet, but when we all get to pay extra for the long term maintenance of Main Street because the long term maintenance money from the state was spent making that maintenance both more expensive and largely unfunded, I figure that will be my part then. The City has replaced a small section of the sidewalk on 14th street over the past few decades, installing a regular, raised curb in front of the driveway into our garage. I've only asked City officials about it nine or 10 times so it's probably my fault. It'd be really nice to be able to actually use the garage we pay for but, hey, I understand that the civic pride induced by individual house numbers laid into the Main Street sidewalk trumps any trivial concern like that. Maybe the drainage overflow will eventually wash that part of the curb away too, and we can just steer through the weeds. The good news is that the unusable curb is actually a bit better than what I've since become accustomed to. When I say I could go on for hours about this stuff, I'm not exaggerating.

RAB: With reference to the curb, and our aggressive program of knocking down houses for replacement by balsa wood facsimiles, I ask this question sans irony: Is there a point when the planned demolition of errant infrastructure "improvements" becomes the only feasible strategy?

JG: Yes, I think we passed that threshold a while ago, especially considering that they continue to spend so heavily on errant "improvements". I've often joked that my first five years in New Albany were spent begging the City to spend money and the second five has been spent begging them to stop.

Tim Deatrick: It is the city storm water program's responsibility to maintain a free, unobstructed flow to storm drains, therefore the weeds and tree growing here falls on the city to take care of the problem.

Ann Baumgartle: If we just park a junk car that never moves there we won't have to see the tree growing out of the storm sewer.

Barbara Anderson: I don't know, I think every party should have some planned green space.


w&la said...

It's a pipe dream to think folks will clean storm drains on their own when you see home after home in New Albany mow their yard and easement and simply let all of the grass clippings pile up in the street.

Apparently many share the feeling that yard waste should be put in the street and run down the storm drain.

I see it done all the time throughout New Albany.

ecology warrior said...

This is the responsibility of the Storm Water Department. This is clearly neglect and a failure to provide routine maintenance that you the residents and businesses are paying storm water fees to take care of. Back in 2006, when I was chairman of the First Storm Water Board we contracted out the operation to EMC because essentially the city run program was a disgrace, inefficient and a complete failure. Under our leadership and the professional management by EMC you did not see weeds growing out of storm grates and there was a concerted and systematic preventative maintenance program in place with full reporting and accountability. Ask yourself has drainage improved with the city run operation and are you getting your money's worth? Given the obvious flooding issues that are being so nicely demonstrated by Roger's photographs, I think the answer is a resounding NO! Yet this Mayor who praised us initially when he was a city councilman, led the council's decision to sue the Board when we privatized the operation, which by the way was a defeat for the council in court as the Judge ruled in our favor. Oh but his city council district got a nice capital improvement project (Castlewood) as soon as Doug England took the helm again. Castlewood was a high priority capital project but it got bumped up ahead of other areas that rated higher, can we say political pay off? I don't know who you think you are fooling gahan but your storm water program is once again a city run failure, enjoy your new swimming pool and swimming in the flooded streets of new Albany.

Marcey said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, Tim, but I really don't think the EPA wants us to use Roundup in the storm drains do they? In fact, I believe I remember the city threatened to fine Keep New Albany Clean and Green if they used any weed killer in the downtown area. To be honest, if the streets, curbs and sidewalks were properly maintained this wouldn't be the overwhelming problem that it is in most every neighborhood in New Albany.

ecology warrior said...

Its called a weedeater marcey