In my short time as a Howland Township trustee, it has become apparent to me that the state of Ohio needs to empower townships (there are 1,308 townships in Ohio) to be able to help township residents, who are continually harmed by flooding caused by severe storms.
I have taken several "field trips" with our public works director to various flooded properties and inadequate drainage facilities. We need the proper level of resources to help address re-occurring storm water flooding and damage.
Currently, Ohio law leaves townships nearly powerless to help our residents deal with this chronic problem. Title 61 of the Ohio Revised Code contains many statutes that already provide a comprehensive scheme for Ohio residents living in unincorporated areas of the state to petition county government to create new ditching or drainage facilities.
The cost eventually gets paid by the landowners who are determined to benefit from the drainage improvement.
I'm not suggesting to change any of that (though it is an expensive and time consuming process). However, I would suggest that new statutory language be enacted by the General Assembly to allow townships, with prior written consent of the landowners and the county engineer, to go upon private property to clean out, modify and improve existing ditches and drainage facilities.
Preferably, the landowners themselves would have the duty to maintain the improvement (a drainage easement could be taken where necessary). Moreover, there would not be any "taking" involved that would require compensation paid to landowners (again, they would be asking for this work to be done).
Now, none of this is reasonable unless the General Assembly provides the money and resources to townships. Backhoes, excavators and labor are needed. I believe the money is already there to underwrite this process: In 2011, USA Today reported that the state of Ohio would spend $1.4 billion to attract businesses to the state to create jobs.
I don't know whether that is working. I do know the preamble to the Ohio Constitution states that the people of Ohio desire to "promote our common welfare." So, I think the state should use some of the billions it has on hand to fund townships to properly address drainage issues and, thus, promote the welfare of Ohio citizens.
James T. Saker