By Kevin Kelley
In this year of record rainfall, many Northeast Ohio homeowners who have suffered from flooded basements have placed the blame on their city’s sewer system. But in Fairview Park, one resident is blaming her flooding problems on the new Gilles-Sweet Elementary School.
Debra Bujnovsky, whose West 223rd Street backyard is adjacent to the west end of Gilles-Sweet School, said she has suffered from flooding in her backyard and near her house.
“It’s now starting to seep into the foundation,” said Bujnovsky, who said she is pursuing legal action against the city, which she blames for granting construction approval to the new Gilles-Sweet School.
The excessive water has destroyed her garden and the grass in her backyard, she added.
A resident of West 223rd Street for 16 years, Bujnovsky said she experienced no problems until around 2007, when the new Gilles-Sweet Elementary School was built.
The grade of the back field at the school is significantly higher than it had been, Bujnovsky said. The field drops off significantly, more than two feet in some places, she said, just at the backyard fence of Bujnovsky and her neighbors.
Bujnovsky provided West Life with two estimates for remedies from an Avon engineering firm; one costs $2,600, the other nearly $4,000. The estimate included an opinion that rainwater may be overwhelming the school’s drainage system and infiltrating Bujnovsky’s yard.
Both Fairview Park City Schools Superintendent Brion Deitsch and Mayor Eileen Patton have personally inspected the West 223rd Street yard, but Bujnovsky said she is not satisfied by their response.
A garage added by a neighbor of Bujnovsky may have contributed to the problem, Patton said.
Patton and Michael Mackay, whose company performs engineering work for the city, both said Bujnovsky hung up on Mackay when he called her to discuss the matter. Bujnovsky denied this.
At the Nov. 7 regular meeting of Fairview Park City Council, another West 223rd Street resident, Mike Bejcek, asked city officials to do something about persistent flooding in his backyard.
After the meeting, Bejcek showed Mackay photos of standing water in his backyard. Mackay promised to look into the matter again. The city engineering consultant said city officials intend to meet with school district officials to discuss the matter.
Bejcek and Jeff Malek, another West 223rd Street resident who attended the Nov. 7 council meeting, were adamant in saying their flooding problems began after Gilles-Sweet Elementary School was rebuilt. Malek said an oak tree in his backyard is dying due to the excess water. Both said at least five residents on their street have had flooding problems in their yards.
Mackay had earlier said that he reviewed the architectural and engineering drawings of Gilles-Sweet and concluded the school field is not contributing to excess water in Bujnovsky’s backyard.
“I couldn’t see any water coming from the school to their property,” he said.
The drainage sewer in the school’s field should handle all the water and prevent flooding, Mackay said, adding there is no structural problem at Gilles-Sweet School.
Mackay also said the yard at Gilles-Sweet is not significantly different than it was three years ago.
Mackay said he recommends that Bujnovsky divert the garage downspout to the driveway instead of the backyard to remedy the flooding.
Deitsch said that while he is still looking into the matter, there are no structural or engineering problems at Gilles-Sweet from the district’s perspective. The school’s field includes an underground retention system and was designed to hold water back from going into the storm sewer system and possibly flood basements, the superintendent said.
During a recent rainstorm, Deitsch personally visited the site. He said he saw water draining properly. No water was collecting in the ditch between the school field and residents’ back yards, he noted.