Lebanon residents seek update on Roger Drive flooding

Streets and Alleys committee members told residents that none of them gave Streets and Alleys Superintendent Jody McNeese an order to fill in a hole at Merril Street and Roger Drive, which the residents say now sends storm water running into different areas of the street. The committee members said that they could not recall voting on it as a council.

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Residents brought forth concerns about worsening flooding along Roger Drive at the Lebanon Streets and Alleys committee meeting. After 20 years of small fixes and “kicking the can down the road” as one resident put it, they are eager to know when the project will be made a priority. 

Noel Harpe, a Roger Drive resident with deep pools of water on her property came forward to city council back in May with photos of the standing water of her property, which sits adjacent to property owned by McKendree University. Alderman Frank Almeter said he would personally pay for the portion of the pipe that needed to be replaced in front of Harpe’s home. Streets, Alleys and Cemetery Superintendent Jody McNeese told the council that he would get measurements and look into what it would take to help give Harpe relief. Since then, Almeter has paid for 140 feet of three foot pipe that is waiting to be installed by the city. 

Terry Weil, who owns a home on Roger Drive and has family in the immediate area, doesn’t feel like that will be enough. Weil, a contractor and licensed inspector, urged Almeter to have a new engineer look at the issues, especially since the current pipe that is deteriorating is three feet wide and water issues have persisted for “the past 20 years.” Weil held a thick file under his arm of photos and documents over the years, including petitions signed by Roger Drive residents asking for relief that were given to city council in January of 2016. 

Engineers have previously told the council that fixing the entire flooding problem along Roger Drive would cost an estimated $250,000. Mayor Rich Wilken said that finding the money to complete the project was “a priority.” Many avenues, including meeting with state legislative members, have been exhausted as the council has searched for assistance to complete the project. 

Wilken and McNeese met with Harpe and representatives from McKendree University in June, along with John Harryman, a District Conservationist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Wilken was holding out hope that there may be federal funds available to the city. 

Harpe came to the committee meeting to address numerous large sinkholes in her yard, some nearing two feet deep, that make her concerned for neighborhood children. “Who’s responsible for fixing the sinkholes? Who bears the responsibility legally,” Harpe asked committee members Frank Almeter, Cheri Wright and Landall Mack. Al Gerdes was absent. 

Wright said she would prefer not to answer without City of Lebanon Attorney John Long present, as there could be many different answers, and she wanted to provide Harpe with the proper, legal response to her question. 

Weil asked committee members about rock that was used to fill in a hole at Merril Street and Roger Drive. “There was rock put over the drain again at the southeast corner of Merril and Roger. It was dumped there and leveled off with a city backhoe. Who authorized that? I was told by Jody that the city council told him to do it,” Weil said. 

Almeter said he “had no clue,” and Wright and Mack shook their heads. Weil asked if it was another verbal order, referring to the ongoing back pay issues facing the city. 

“Well, Friday morning, rock was dumped over the drain where water pools anyway, and now it’s even worse,” Weil said. Weil, Harpe and Almeter all spoke about concrete trucks that were washed out into the drain that began some of the issues at the corner years ago. Wright, Mack and Almeter said they would ask the rest of the council at the meeting next week who had given McNeese the order. 

The committee did say they would recommend purchasing tablets to rid the standing water of mosquito larvae, and to place cones around the sinkholes on Harpe’s property to make people more aware of where they are in her yard. They also said they would keep Roger Drive water issues on the city council agenda to keep the project moving forward.