Several Cleveland residents from the Bowman Avenue area on Monday petitioned the City Council for help with the dangerous flooding problem on their property, stemming from the city drainage system. The problem was discussed in detail at the 1 p.m. agenda meeting, and a motion to add extra drain pipes to the area was passed unanimously during the 3 p.m. session.
One woman said that every time it rains, the water in her backyard becomes knee-deep. In her front yard, she said that the water rushes from the drain pipe in such a strong current that a pet or small child could easily be pulled under. Another woman said that the surge of water had even caused sinkholes in her yard.
Another property owner in the area, Scott Kanavos, said that not only was the water dangerous because of the fast currents, but also because of the debris and trash it brings. He said that items like saws and hypodermic needles had come in with the stormwater. He said, “We need the city to step in.” Mr. Kanavos speculated that part of the problem was the age of the infrastructure, saying many of the tiles were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s.
Tennessee water law uses the Natural Flow Rule, meaning that the natural flow of the water is not to be changed, it was stated. When discussing putting in new pipes, Councilman Richard Banks said “We aren't changing the natural flow of the water. The city in the past did change the natural flow, and it caused the Bowman people problems.”
The City Council decided to send out letters to all residents in the area who will be affected by the repairs.
Also, Mr. Kanavos, who is a Cleveland defense attorney, suggested to the council that the New Life Community Kitchen, currently located on South Ocoee Street, be moved away from the downtown area, as a way of preventing crime.
Mr. Kanavos and several other business owners in the area said they have noticed many of the homeless starting to congregate around the soup kitchen at all hours of the day and night. He said that the area has become more littered, including two buildings that he owns. He told of one particular homeless man who had been living out of a vehicle and had been spotted multiple times dumping trash and human waste onto the street and sidewalk.
Mr. Kanavos also said that what he had started witnessing from his downtown office window was "beyond shocking." He said he had seen “altercations, fornication, and sexual acts,” between the homeless all during the work day.
He said that his biggest fear was that one of the altercations would escalate to a homicide, describing the situation as “a perfect storm for trouble.” He pointed out how hard the city government and police force had worked to keep the downtown area safe and clean, calling the area the “jewel of the city.” He explained that he did not want this to become more of a public safety issue where people would be afraid to walk downtown.
Measures such as parking limits have already been passed to dissuade anyone from residing in their vehicle in city parking spaces, but this has also affected business owners and their clients, it was stated. Downtown business owner Doug Caywood said that the nearest place he could now tell his clients to park was approximately four blocks away.
Other ideas discussed were parking permits for business owners and creating an ordinance requiring cars parked longer than 24 hours be towed. Nothing was decided, but the discussion will continue in the next Cleveland City Council meeting.