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Published: Saturday, 7/29/2006

McNamara urges flood loans

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council candidate Joe McNamara called yesterday on the city to offer loans to homeowners in targeted areas to protect their homes against flooding.

It turns out Toledo has a program aimed at helping pay for flood-related home improvements, though it gets little attention.

Mr. McNamara is a Democrat running for the council at-large seat vacated in May by Democrat Bob McCloskey just before he was convicted of state and federal bribery charges. The seat is held now by endorsed Democrat Lourdes Santiago, who was appointed.

Mr. McNamara said his plan would create a low-interest loan fund for homeowners to install backwater valves or water-proofing systems, and also offer them a credit on their water and sewer bills for such upgrades. He said his idea was based on one used in Connecticut.

In fact, the city has two funds of $100,000 each available to make grants to homeowners for such improvements. The grants were established in 2004 by then-Mayor Jack Ford.

Bob Stevenson, director of the city's Toledo Waterways Initiative, said one fund is for basement improvements, such as sump pumps and valves. The limit is $500, and there are no income restrictions.

The second fund is to disconnect driveway drains from sanitary sewers and connect them to the storm-sewer system. The limit for those is $1,500.

He said about 100 people have applied for the basement flooding grants and 14 have been approved. Eighteen have applied for the driveway drain program, and none has been disbursed yet. Mr. Stevenson said the grants are made as reimbursements. He said Mr. Ford held two news conferences to announce the grants.

Mr. McNamara says the city should seek to partner with local banks to create the loan fund. "Obviously, the most important things the city can do to prevent future flooding damage involve sewers and drainage, engineering and infrastructure," he said. "But there are a lot of homeowners whose lives would be simpler right now if they had had backwater valves and sump pumps."

Mr. McNamara is one of at least seven people who have taken out petitions.

Two of Mr. McNamara's opponents said he's proposing duplicating existing programs and proposing the city take on new expenditures.

Ms. Santiago said, "Rather than trying to create media attention to his candidacy, he should be investigating what is already available to the public and helping people access those programs already in existence."

Republican Dave Schulz, who suggested Mr. McNamara was using the flooding problems to advance his political career, said such loans are available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration. "The city has enough on their plates maintaining our sewer system let alone managing another government program," he said.

Mr. Schulz said homeowners should consider adding a sewer backup, sump backup rider on their homeowners' insurance policy.

Bob Vasquez, an unendorsed Democrat, said he'd like to review Mr. McNamara's proposal more before commenting on it.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.


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