Harold “Buddy” Newland often has seen water creep into his yard, sometimes rising more than a foot deep, during his 35 years living in Jewell Village.
Over the years, Bartholomew County has tried to fix the problem by improving water and sewage lines. And Jewell Village homeowners also have spent their time and money, filling ditches and installing drainage pipes in their yards. But a permanent solution has proved elusive.
Newland, 77, who has used a motorized wheelchair since a stroke, grew frustrated again last week when water rose and he was unable to reach his roadside mailbox.
“I keep my cell phone with me in case I get stuck,” he said. A retired Vernco supervisor, Newland wants the county to take a new look at the problem, especially with spring rains exacerbating the drainage issues.
Bartholomew County engineer Danny Hollander visited Newland’s property last week and talked with Bartholomew County Commissioners Monday about the problem.
“The whole subdivision has drainage issues,” Hollander said. “There’s nowhere for the water to go.”
The 250-home addition off Base Road in Clay Township, built in 1952, predates a county ordinance requiring stricter drainage plans for subdivisions. Further complicating the issue is the less-absorbent clay soil on which the homes were built.
Although Jewell Village residents are hoping the county will help with the problem, Carl Lienhoop, Bartholomew County commissioner, believes it is an issue for private homeowners.
In some cases, homeowners have filled in the drainage ditches in front of their houses, worsening the flooding of their yards and driveways.
“We have at least one or two of these situations every year that is brought to our attention,” Lienhoop said.
“It is private property, and we really shouldn’t use tax-payer dollars to work on situations like that.”
Lienhoop said homeowners could bring the matter to the attention to the county drainage board, which would make a decision on who is responsible for repairs.
“The board can specify how a problem should be fixed and who pays for it,” Lienhoop said.
Resident Kenny Love said drainage is worse in certain areas of the subdivision, including where Newland lives.
“When it rains it really collects here,” said Love, who was worried about the forecast for more rain this week.
Love and other neighbors last week cleaned part of the drainage pipe that was spewing water into Newland’s yard.
Wes Crow, a neighbor of Newland’s, said the drainage pipe had rusted and partially collapsed. Dirt and tree roots had narrowed the opening.
Newland said he feels fortunate that his neighbors and family help him when high water makes it hard for him to get around, but he would like to see the county develop a long-term solution.
“They’ve got to do something,” he said. “I can’t live like this.”