By Crystal Burns
A group of Rutherford residents want answers for an increase in flooding woes in their McKnight Street neighborhood.
Judy Liebeno contacted the Tri-City Reporter after an article, “Rutherford mayor hopeful county can help with flooding issue,” addressing a dramatic flooding May 17 that washed out a culvert and flooded South Trenton Street, was published May 26.
Liebeno provided several photos of the May 17 flooding on McKnight Street, but she and two of her neighbors say it doesn’t take an unusual amount of rain to flood their street.
Liebeno moved into a home she is renting on McKnight Street last July. She said the week after she moved in, she experienced her first flood there. She believes the flooding is caused by runoff from a field behind the house.
Liebeno has gone to City Hall to complain about the problem, showing photos of the high water. She said she was told that the farmer would dig a ditch to reroute the runoff from his field as soon as he got his corn crop in last year. Liebeno said she was later told that it didn’t have anything to do with the field, but the flooding was caused by a small trench dug on a government apartment complex located next to the field.
Liebeno says the apartment trench reasoning doesn’t add up to her.
“It doesn’t even come down to me,” she said.
She thinks a culvert the farmer put in her backyard is the culprit. Liebeno does not know when the culvert was installed. She says if the city allowed him to put it in, the city should be able to tell him to take it out or build a ditch to properly drain his field.
“I think this is ridiculous,” Liebeno said. “The city won’t do anything.”
Brenda Gray has lived on McKnight Street for 52 years. On Tuesday, June 9, flooding from heavy rain sent her landscape timbers across the street into a neighbor’s yard.
“We’ve always had water problems, but nothing like we have now,” she said.
Gray said she and her neighbors have found corn stalks and cobs in their yards after a rain. She said she thinks the apartment complex’s trench and the farmer’s culvert are to blame. Gray and another neighbor have attended Rutherford board meetings to ask the mayor and board for help.
“I want some answers,” Gray said.
The family that lived between Liebeno and Gray moved out due to the flooding, the women said. Gray said they had redone the interior of their home three times because of water issues, and Liebeno said the flooding caused mold to grow in the home.
Liebeno said she may follow her former neighbors’ lead and move out. She is currently looking at a home in Kenton, she said.
Frances Goad, who lives across the street from Liebeno, has noticed the rain comes across the street and goes under her carport, causing concern about her home’s foundation. Goad said the water “comes right out like a spigot” from cracks in her carport steps. The first time she noticed it, she was convinced she had a leak or busted pipe under her house. She believes the flooding has caused the cracks.
“It does this anytime it rains decent,” Goad said.
Rutherford Mayor Sandy Simpson said the city can’t go onto private property to fix a problem that it didn’t create.
“I would love to be able to go one their property and fix it for them,” Simpson said.
Simpson agrees with the women that the field and the apartment complex don’t have proper drainage. She said she has spoken with the farmer, Bob Holloman, and asked if there is any thing he can do to help the situation.
Simpson also agreed with Gray’s assessment that the flooding is getting worse and said she doesn’t understand why.
Simpson advised that residents should contact personal attorneys and/or the Army Corps of Engineers for solutions to the problem. She also said they could come to the June 15 board meeting and ask City Attorney Jeff Smith, who will be present, for legal guidance.
“Something has got to be done,” Gray said. “This can’t go on.”