Water runoff issue plagues La Crosse

The ongoing matter concerning several La Crosse residents and Main Street water runoff flooding their yards due to an unkempt ditch resurfaced at Monday’s town council meeting.

The issue has been brought to council in the form of a complaint multiple times previously.

The issue is created when rainwater runoff that comes from Main Street runs into a ditch that lies on private property. The stretch of the ditch in questions falls on the property of two La Crosse landowners and the railroad company.

The ditch was once maintained by the town however has since become grown up with vegetation and clogged with debris.

According to La Crosse Mayor Jay Spence, if the ditch were cleaned out every once in a while and maintained, the water would flow and not flood the yards of the several residents who have frequently attended council meetings to voice their rancor with the whole situation.

Those citizens were once again in attendance on Monday. The citizens as well as Spence said the flooding is causing property damage in the yards of those affected by the issue. Spence even noted that the standing water was creating foundation/structural issues for some of the homeowners.

He said after speaking with the railroad company, it agreed to clean the section of the ditch on the property it owns but could not pass onto the landowner’s property. Spence said that written permission could be obtained from the landowners, granting access to the rest of the problematic ditch.

“I don’t think the homeowners would have a problem with this, because this is also messing their property up,” he said.

Additionally, Spence pointed out that the area affected is generally a low-income area.

“With the area being a low-income area, are we going to help the people do anything about this drainage problem?” he asked council. “If we just donated (the installation) of a water spigot for some pretty flowers.”

Spence was referencing Town Manager F.A. Hendricks’s improvements update, given earlier in the meeting, in which he said that the town had installed a water spigot, free of charge. The spigot was donated, however town employees donated four hours to install it. The spigot will be used by a citizen to water flowers.

“It’s where this lady up here has the garden with all the flowers and pretty stuff going on. It was donated, so the town installed it,” Hendrick said. “Before (to water the flowers), she had to drag a hose all the way from her house, across the street, with people running all over it, so we figured it was the least we could do because I think it looks really nice where she’s done all that work.”

“We donated the labor for this job,” Spence said of the spigot installation. “If the flowers live or die, it’s not hurting anybody. This ditch is destroying people’s property. I think we need to look into this a little further instead of dragging it out as long as it has been.”

Several council members resisted the idea of cleaning the ditch, demanding who would “engineer the project” and how much it would cost.

Councilman Joe Young questioned if the funding for cleaning out the ditch was in the budget.

Several council members said that if the section of ditch in question were cleaned out, it would just create water drainage issues further down the line and if the town begin cleaning ditches for certain citizens, they would have to do it for others.

La Crosse citizen Robin Clark, who was in attendance at the meeting, spoke up asking if the town would also do something about water runoff on her property.

“The water runs off that hill right there on Pine Street, comes right down my pretty little gravel that I work and pay for. It makes a rut through there, so are you going to solve my problem?” Clark said.

Spence asked Clark if the water running onto her property was Main Street runoff from the same area. Clark responded that it is not, it comes from “the state road.” Spence advised Clark that she needs to contact the Virginia Department of Transportation for issues involving state roads.

Council also pointed out that just because the town maintained the area of this ditch that lies on private property previously doesn’t mean it was “right” or that the town should continue to do it.

Councilman David Williams seemed mainly concerned about acquiring permission, especially from the railroad company, before making any decisions. He also advised that council should consider the scope of the project before the town takes it on.

“We try to do what we can to help, but to what degree, what extent and what expense?” he said.

Several council members noted that if any action were to be taken at all, it must pass a council vote.

Spence maintained that because the issue is created by water runoff from Main Street, the town should further look into the matter.

“Anything that is running off the streets of our town and causing damage to people’s property, I think it’s something that needs to be looked into,” he said.