Brimfield, Ohio. March 22nd, 2011.

Thomas Deighan has that sinking feeling, watching a landscaping island in front of his Brimfield home disappear into the growing maw of a sinkhole.

This latest hole, which developed over the past weekend, is at least 10 feet deep and more than a dozen feet across. There are a series of holes, all following a drainage pipe that runs between his property at 2417 Tamarack and that of neighbor Tom Fioritto at 2403 Tamarack. The pipe empties into a 12-acre wetlands at the back of their properties.

Deighan said he and Fioritto believe the pipe has separated underground and this year’s heavy rains and snow are washing soil into the pipe, causing the sinkholes.

The 30-foot-wide drainage easement was used to lay underground electric service, gas service and television cable. It’s only a matter of time before the erosion interrupts those utilities, Deighan said.

He’s also concerned that a break in the electrical line could be more dangerous than someone falling into one of the deep pits.

Deighan said his frustration is that he can’t find out whose problem it is to fix. He said he talked with Township Trustee Mike Kostensky.

“He said ‘It’s not the township’s or the county’s problem, it’s your problem,’” Deighan said.

That could be true, but it points to a major problem with drainage issues that are unrelated to roadways.

By the county’s subdivision regulations, a developer is required to set up a homeowners association to maintain commonly owned features in the development, such as drainage pipes, open spaces or trails. Money for maintenance and repair is raised by assessing property owners. However, it is not uncommon for the associations to wither quickly.

Deighan, who’s lived in Willowbrook Estates for 11 years, said he’s never heard of an association in his neighborhood.

“I’m not a member if there is one,” Deighan said.

Portage County Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio said the county has established that “unfortunately, we are not an appropriate source of help.”

“It’s on private property and if we wanted to help, we can’t,” she said.

Commissioners got a letter in March 2009 from Fioritto asking that the county repair what he called a “storm sewer line” and assess all property owners who would benefit from the repairs.

After review, County Engineer Michael Marozzi agreed the drainage line needed maintenance, but said that was the homeowners association’s responsibility, not the county’s.

Officials said it isn’t a township issue either because the drainage line was back from the township road on private property.

 

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