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Lorain Council rejects improvement plan for flood-prone road



LORAIN — Dayton Avenue residents drive slowly on the road to avoid potholes during normal conditions, and speed up to avoid getting stuck when the road frequently floods.

Dayton runs from West 32nd Street to West 38th Street in South Lorain between Lexington Avenue, Oakdale Avenue and Oakdale Boulevard in a flood-prone area of the city. Neighbors had hoped to get relief soon, but an improvement plan stalled last week after City Council members vetoed it.

The $743,000 project would have installed curbs, drains and sidewalks in addition to resurfacing 1,350 feet of the road. Part of it is a dirt road.

Homeowners would have been assessed $412,000 of the cost. Council rejected the project because of $12,000 in back taxes owed by some residents.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer told Council he understood residents’ concerns, but incremental repairs would continue to cost Lorain money. Jim Oswalt, of 3869 Dayton, lobbied Council to approve the project.

Oswalt moved into his home near the intersection of West 38th in 1998. As he walked the road last week, Oswalt said he was attracted by a 15-year tax abatement, but the road’s condition has always been bad. He said it further deteriorated about two years ago when large trucks came in with construction material to build the New Bethel Primitive Baptist Church at the end of Dayton by West 38th.

Oswalt, who said he has lobbied Council to fix the road for a decade, said neighbors have spent thousands of dollars for car repairs due to the road’s condition and the city will no longer reimburse them for damage claims. He said school buses won’t drive down the road when it floods, and cars have to be pushed out when it snows.

Oswalt said he and next door neighbor Andrew Olic maintain a 50-yard-long drainage ditch at the intersection of Dayton and W. 38th that frequently floods. Olic, of 3867 Dayton, a resident since 2008, said his front yard frequently floods, including during a severe May 12 thunderstorm that dumped about five inches of rain on Lorain County in five hours. “The city doesn’t seem to care,” Olic said.

Olic, who would owe $8,611 in assessments over a 20-year period, said he’s willing to pay the cost. However, Ruth Leos, of 3765 Dayton, said she wasn’t sure if she could afford the $8,978 she’d owe. “I’m barely making it as it is,” said Leos, a part-time Morning Journal newspaper deliverer and part-time Kmart supervisor.

Concerns over whether neighbors such as Leos would pay partially caused the rejection, Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-5th Ward, said last week. Edwards, who spearheaded the rejection, said he also was motivated by what he perceived as a double standard by Council.

In April, Council rejected improving Industrial Avenue — which is in Edwards’ ward — between Eagle Avenue and Fulton Road due to at least $38,000 in back taxes. Auditor Ron Mantini said five of the nine assessed parcel owners owe taxes.

The rejection came after Councilman Joe Koziura, D-at large, asked about a report he requested from Mantini on unpaid assessments. Mantini said Lorain is owed $115,000 in assessments on a 1987 project and $70,000 on a 1983 project. Unpaid assessments are added to back taxes and can lead to foreclosures.

Edwards said Council needs to have a criterion for whether to approve assessed projects where taxes are owed. “We need to work out the rules of the game before we start playing the game,” he said.

Oswalt said most of the back taxes on Dayton are owed by the owners of two foreclosed houses, one of which was demolished recently. Oswalt said approving the project would boost property values.

While frustrated by the lack of progress, Oswalt remains hopeful. “If this street got done, it would be a beautiful area,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 oregoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.

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