Blueprint Columbus: Can it work here? | Part #2 - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Blueprint Columbus: Can it work here? | Part #2

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

As Judy Peyko sits in her front yard, unable to go into her Boardman home after several episodes of flooding, her frustration is tempered by encouragement.

"I've just been trying not to reinvent the wheel, knowing there are other communities having similar issues we've been having," she said.

She learned about Blueprint Columbus, a multifaceted approach to upgrading the stormwater and sanitary sewer systems.

"I liked that it was a comprehensive program looking at it from a health standpoint," Peyko says.

Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree also serves on the ABC Water District, which deals with stormwater management in three Mahoning County communities. He's seen Blueprint for himself and believes there are aspects of it that could work here.

"What I'd like to see moving forward with ABC is places where green infrastructure makes sense," Loree said. "We also want to see an increase in retention in older developments, in older communities, and we also would love to work with the sanitary engineer's office in areas where we have sanitary infiltrating storm systems."

But the Blueprint plan is not apples to apples and one of the reasons why is that Columbus is a city, versus trying to accomplish the same thing between a township and a county.

"It's my hope that as the stormwater district moves forward with its master planning, that at the same time sanitary can be able to identify some of those problem areas within our areas that flood and it's a joint effort," Loree said.

21 News tried several times in the last week to reach Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti to talk about the program, but got no response. Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti says while he's fascinated by what he's learned about the program, there are still questions that need answers.

"How did they get access to private property, public property, who was the engineering firms? There's a lot involved, and there are more cities can do legally than we can as a county," Traficanti says.

Then there's the cost. Just one project area in Blueprint cost $80 million.
That money all came from fees that residents in Columbus were already paying.
But since such a program would have to be coordinated between a township and a county, it would take a lot more to change the rate and fee structure to drum up the extra dollars.

"We have done what our rate structure has allowed us to do as a county," says Traficanti.

He added that the county is doing some things similar to what Blueprint is doing, but that the county needs to do more to educate residents about what's available.

"We have our gate valve program. We will pay up to 50 percent of the cost, up to $2,500, to remove their downspouts out of the ground going into our sanitary sewer. We have upgraded Boardman's treatment plant, putting millions and millions into that. We are re-lining sewers as we speak in Poland Woods and Poland village," Traficanti said.

Despite the questions, he seems convinced that Columbus is on to something with Blueprint.

"We want to talk to those folks, get a more close-up view and picture of how all this came together," Traficanti said.

Judy Peyko agrees and hopes the ideas that are working in Columbus will keep her from being forced from her home again.
"I don't think we can go wrong," she says. "I don't think it's going to resolve all the issues, but it'll solve a big part that can really help this area."

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