City clears drainage ditch after requests

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
This drainage ditch, which runs along 11th Street, was once filled with debris, including trees, shrubs, trash, even mattresses, but was recently completely cleaned out by the city, after they entering into an easement agreement with local landowner Gail Purves, who owns several rental homes in the neighborhood. During heavy rainfall, the debris was impeding the flow of water through the drainage ditch, defeating their purpose, causing homes to flood. Julia Kilmer/

Landlord: ‘Residents should expect high water to drain faster’

The clearing of a large, debris-filled drainage ditch along Fair and 11th streets in Cassville may now help prevent flooding, which has been an ongoing problem for families in the neighborhood.

Along with a hydraulic study and other measures the city is taking to tackle flooding in the city, clearing the ditch, which had grown trees and various debris in it, is just one piece of the puzzle that may help solve the big picture.

According to landowner Gail Purves, who owns several rentals along Fair and 11th Street, the ditch has been clogged with growth and debris for 15-20 years, defeating its purpose by not allowing storm water to flow efficiently and contributing to the flooding of homes in the neighborhood.

Purves said he had approached the city about the issue in the past, and asked his renters, who have endured repeat floorings, to write letters asking the city to clean out and maintain the ditch and to remove gravel from the creek bed on the north side of town, in addition to the south side.

The city responded, asking Purves to sign an easement to allow them to work in the ditch.

City Administrator Steve Walensky said crews cleaned a substantial amount of debris out of the ditch, resulting in a dramatic difference within a short period of time.

“It looks much different now,” Walensky said. “It’s a clean shot all the way to the creek. I’m hoping that will help out quite a bit on Fair Street. We give Gail praise for that. If we can get the water to move through Cassville faster and mitigate flooding. That’s my strategic plan.”

Purves said plans are also in the works to do more work behind the Senior Center building on Fair Street.

“Jerry Watley owns this property and plans to increase the width of the ditch to the north so drainage can flow more freely into the creek,” he said. “This should make a significant difference, too.”

Residents who live along Fair, 10th, 11th and Mill streets have reason to be happy.

“Now that the city has cleaned out the ditch near Fair Street that parallels the south side of 11th Street, residents who reside near this area should see faster drainage of high water,” Purves said. “This is especially true for those who live between 10th and 11th streets east of Mill Street, particularly when the storm comes from west of town. So, neighbors along Fair Street are really glad to see it done.”

That includes residents like DonNetta Thomas.

“The city got after it,” said Thomas, who is blind and raising two boys. “They’ve been out here cutting down all the trees and debris. We’ve been through six floods in the three years we’ve been here. I have good renter’s insurance, but it doesn’t include flooding.”

Thomas praised Purves, saying he has gone “above and beyond” to look after his renters — offering to help during floods, urging them to evacuate and calling to check on them and their children.

“He would wade through the water and ask if everything was OK,” she said. “He would call through the night, and asked if we were sure we didn’t want to evacuate?”

Thomas admits that unless there was a safety hazard, even when the both Purves and the city urged residents to evacuate, she attempted to stay anyway, trying to sweep water away, which was so high it was at her doorstep on a two-foot high concrete base.

“What we’ve got is what we’ve got, and we’ve worked hard for it,” she said. “If I left, it would ruin all I owned. We’re hardworking people like everyone else. I thought as long as I stayed, I could keep sweeping the water out of my door.”

However, in the last major flooding in April, the water did come in.

“The last one was rough on everybody,” she said.

Thomas said the flooding wasn’t just a threat to homes and belongings, but to the safety of their children and sanitation of the neighborhood, due to the multitude of debris that flows through the neighborhood from the ditches during the floods.

“We all worked together as a team, and Gail worked right along with us to pick up all the trash and debris that flowed into our yards from the ditch so our kids could go out and play, and he just gave us encouragement,” she said.

Now, Thomas and her neighbors hope they won’t have to deal with severe floods, and Thomas credits Purves for that.

“He worked for a long time trying to get someone to come clean out the ditch,” she said. “He takes good care of us and treats us like family. I appreciate him because no one would rent to me because they were afraid I’d burn their house down because I’m blind. I looked seven years for a house. He gave me a home to raise my boys in. He’s been nothing but good to me.

“Once, I fell off my porch, and he had Emmanuel Baptist Church and Bill Shiveley build a ramp for me last October during Act of Kindness Day. He’s helped everyone here during floods.”

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