By BOB OLIVER
HEIGHTS — After a third study session, the City Council is still investigating what should be done with Old Orchard Pond in the River Oaks subdivision.
Residents in the subdivision, which has more than 200 houses northwest of Ford Road and Evergreen, have been complaining to the city that the drainage of water from the pond into nearby creeks is blocked, causing standing water issues that have made the pond a breeding ground for mosquitos, which makes it difficult to leave their residences without being attacked and facing health issues due to bug bites.
Residents are arguing that because it is a drainage issue it is the city’s responsibility to fix it while some council members have said that since the pond is on private property — it is owned by the subdivision — it is the responsibility of the neighborhood association to pay for the work.
At the Aug. 12 meeting, council members asked for more research into options for the project, which after preliminary investigations is expected to cost around $250,000 initially with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 going to pond maintenance every two to five years after that.
Mayor Dan Paletko said the city should take care of the problem now because it will only get worse.
“The city has a vested interest in this because we have a significant mosquito problem, which is a safety concern,” Paletko said. “We also don’t want to not act on this or drive our residents out by hitting them with huge amounts of assessments to pay for it.”
He said the city shouldn’t accrue any additional expenditures because the work on the pond was included in this year’s fiscal budget, which was approved by the council in May.
Paletko said that according to his research, two previous mayors looked into addressing the pond. One sent the city’s Department of Public Works in for minor repairs and the second submitted a grant proposal to the state to fix the problem.
Councilman Joseph Kosinski said the city would be setting a bad precedent by paying for repair work on private property and that the future costs of repair work need to be before the council before a decision is made.
Councilman Thomas Berry said the city has to act soon to help the residents being affected.
“This is a costly endeavor but we need to address it,” Berry said. “We have to bite the bullet and make the repair because it won’t become less expensive over time.”
He said the city could fund the initial costs of the project and then hand over the future maintenance expenses to the neighborhood association, something Kosinski and other council members agreed with.
“If we restore it, then the association has to maintain it,” Councilman Ned Apigian said. “We need to reach some sort of compromise.”
Council Chairman Kenneth Baron said the issue would continue to be discussed as more proposals were submitted to the city detailing work options and costs associated with them.
During a July 8 council study session, Wade Trim Project Engineer Mark Pribak said the flow of the pond is not completely blocked and that the issue is the depth of the pond rather than it’s current into neighboring waterways.
“In terms of restoration, what we’re left with is increasing the depth of the pond,” Pribak said. “You increase that and we can get other species living in the pond that will eat the insect nests.”
Pribak said increasing the depth can either be done by dredging the pond to remove sediment from its bottom or by raising the water level.
Pribak also recommended the removal of dead and fallen trees and stabilizing the banks with vegetation, rehabilitating the pond outlet structure to establish proper detention of storm water run-off, creating a forebay area in the pond to enhance future treatment for sediment removal and to reverse the ongoing degradation within the pond to control stormwater and improve water quality in the pond.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)