Supervisors dig into ditch issues
by Rory Doyle
Jul 19, 2013 | 1176 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Issues with the drainage ditches bordering Eastgate subdivision and Bolivar Homes subdivision continue to cause problems on county land just southeast of Cleveland.

The topic has come up multiple times during Bolivar County Board of Supervisors meetings, and County Engineer Bob Eley is hard at work seeking the best solution.

Confusion initially arose when trying to figure out who is responsible for maintaining the ditches, which run directly behind the houses.

With no one cleaning them, the ditches fell victim to plant overgrowth, debris blockage and poor drainage.

Adding to the problem is determining how to bring in large equipment to clean up the space, which will be a struggle due to fences built along the edges of the property.

The county is also working to determine if it has the right-of-way to bring the equipment on the land.

Drainage from the area eventually empties into the nearby Lee Bayou canal.

"The ditches were built as part of the subdivisions, which are outside of Cleveland city limits," said Eley. "They are not the responsibility of Drainage Districts and that means there's no one else left to maintain them but the county."

One of the biggest citizen complaints about the ditches is the safety risk for the children who play in the proximity.

A number of large snakes reportedly taking refuge in the weeds and overgrowth have also been frightening residents.

The subdivisions fall under District 3 County Supervisor Preston Billings, who said he continuously receives calls about the issue from area homeowners.

Billings said the county did cleanup work on connecting ditches just west of Eastgate in 2012, and the disgruntled citizens deserve the same attention.

"Sometimes the people of Eastgate feel like they're being thrown away, and as their supervisor, I want them to know that's just not the case," said Billings. "I'm encouraging all the supervisors to get on board with this and do what we need to do to resolve the issue.

"No one wants to step out of their house and deal with snakes."

To begin the needed cleanup, Eley must finalize his current task of surveying property lines and easements. Moving the fences along these lines will likely be a necessity.

"Our primary focus is to try and figure out where there are easements in relation to the ditch," said Eley.

The county's short-term resolution will require either a large excavator or boom mower.

"Some of the trees popping up are about 10-12 inches wide or wider," added Eley. "It's been neglected for a long time and it's going to take some serious work."

A long-term and more effective solution is to install an underground culvert system to completely eliminate the ditch problem. Eley roughly estimated this process would cost the county about $1.5 million.

"Right now, immediately, we're concerned with cleaning up the existing ditch and making it safe for everyone," he said.

Once land rights are determined, which Eley said could be a timely process, the physical work can begin. To prevent reoccurrence of overgrowth, plans should be developed to mow and maintain the area at least twice a year.

Eley added that the streets within Eastgate could use an additional $1.5 million of work to improve outdated curbs, gutters and pavement.

Eastgate was constructed before the establishment of the Bolivar County Planning Commission, which is now responsible for upholding standards that ensure these problems don't arise within new subdivisions.

"Right now we're focused on fixing this because the people of Eastgate are taxpayers that deserve county services like everyone else." said Billings. "Let's mow and maintain it first, then research available grants so we can install the culverts and fix the problem forever."