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Published: Monday, 2/23/2009

Findlay firm arms city to beat back flooding

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY The city s flood-preparedness effort has received a shot in the arm from one of its corporate citizens.

National Lime and Stone Co. is donating 2,500 bags and 50 tons of sand that will be used to fill them.

The bags will be stored by the company for use the next time the Blanchard River threatens to inundate the city.

A company official said the bags will be stored indoors to protect them from damaging ultraviolet rays and prolong their service life. The bags, purchased from a Dayton firm, are made of woven polypropylene to government standards. The sand is from National Lime and Stone s own quarry.

We went with a specification that the government uses, explained Scott Rhodes, National Lime and Stone s western region vice president. The material is such that it can get wet and then be restored and reused. It can withstand 1,600 days of exposure to UV.

The labor needed to fill the bags will be supplied by inmates of the Hancock County jail, Jim Barker, Findlay s safety director, said.

Mr. Barker has been looking for sandbags and approached the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, only to be told that it had none for the city.

Enter National Lime and Stone which made its offer.

Mr. Barker said the city continues to look for sandbag donations and is exploring the possibility of applying for grants.

Findlay has laid off 17 people this year and plans to shed 10 percent of its fire personnel through attrition. It may impose unpaid furloughs on employees and impose another round of layoffs.

We ve cut our budget by $2 million for 2009, and we re looking now at another $1 million shortfall. We ve cut almost all of the line items out of the budget this year, Mr. Barker said. If it comes down to having to buy sandbags, however, I m sure we ll rob Peter to pay Paul. I ll go to city council.

Mr. Barker said Findlay used 2,000 sandbags during flooding last February. A repeat of the August, 2007, epic flood, which covered downtown, probably would overwhelm any number of sandbags, he said.

Findlay continues to monitor the Blanchard closely at its water pollution control center. Flood stage is 11 feet. During the rains of two weeks ago, the river crested at 12.67 feet, but only nearby streets flooded.

An ad hoc group, the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership, is studying a permanent solution to flooding. It was formed about a year ago with $1 million pledged by eight firms and a $300,000 grant.

The group s goal is to speed the federal process for alleviating flood hazards along waterways such as the Blanchard. This process is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and can take a decade to complete.

The Corps is performing a flood mitigation feasibility study and is sharing the cost with Findlay and the village of Ottawa, Anthony Iriti, a former Findlay mayor and the group s president, said.

The plan is to have the study done sometime next year, a design ready in 2011, and to begin construction in 2012, Mr. Iriti said. The solution probably will involve a combination of flood walls in municipalities and earthen levies where more land is available, he said.

Mr. Iriti said creating a solution would benefit the Blanchard River s entire watershed.

It s been a lot of work, but a lot of good has come out of it, Mr. Iriti said. All of the political subdivisions are working together.

Contact Carl Ryan at:carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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