Hobart couple blame drainage for 17 years of flooding
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 5, 2014 10:56PM
Bruce Kolesiak looks over a previous Post-Tribune article written about their water problems. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 7, 2014 6:03AM
HOBART — Every time there’s a heavy rainfall, Bruce and Gwen Kolesiak worry.
The Hobart couple moved into their bilevel home on the 500 block of North Guyer Street in December 1996, drawn by the large yard that they believed would be a great place for their grandchildren to have parties.
Instead, the yard and the picturesque ditch that flows on the north end quickly turned into a watery nightmare.
They had their first flood in 1997, dashing those party plans and beginning a 17-year effort to get the city to solve their water woes that they say still is unfulfilled. The last flood happened Monday night, when strong thunderstorms shot through the area.
“If the rain really comes down, it looks like our house sits in the middle of a lake,” Gwen Kolesiak said.
A sofa, floor tiles, yearbooks and other personal belongings that were once in the lower level of their home are now gone, ruined by water that has reached up to 21/2 feet high, Gwen Kolesiak said.
Gwen Kolesiak said she called the insurance company to claim the loss and was told they don’t have flood insurance because they don’t live in a lowland.
The couple brought in shelves and bins to store items, but the water came in again, bringing muck in with it.
Bruce Kolesiak started pulling out the drywall on the lower level, which was ruined from the flooding. A pool table is about all that remains in the lower-level living area, its legs bearing water marks.
The flooding comes from a ditch that stretches from the other side of Guyer Street, crosses the Kolesiak property and heads north toward railroad property, where city Engineer Phil Gralik said an underground pipe is too small to handle the water streaming in the ditch after heavy rains, causing it to back up.
“We’ve cleaned the ditch, rip-rapped it, done everything we can without getting onto the railroad’s right of way,” Gralik said.
He said he talked to others in the city who are more familiar with the Kolesiak’s problems and learned the railroad has not been responsive to fixing its problem. Gralik did not know which railroad company owns the land.
Gralik said another step would be to retain water upstream with a retention pond by the George Earle Early Learning Center. He said this would detain some of the water flowing in the ditch so the water can make it to the railroad’s culvert without too much backing up onto the Kolesiak’s property.
“Getting land for the pond is the issue. Safety is an issue with the school,” Gralik said.
“Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut solution,” he said.
Gwen Kolesiak said she’s heard all these possible solutions before.
“We knew about the problem with the railroad and that the only option was a retention pond, However, in 15 years they couldn’t a find a place to put it yet?” she said.
She said the city put the rocks down, but they’ve caused other problems, She said weeds are growing in between the rocks because there’s no protective barrier underneath and kids are throwing the rocks into the ditch, causing more blockage problems.
Gwen Kolesiak said her husband has been cleaning out the ditch, but she feels it’s the city’s job, because the Lake County Surveyor’s office determined years ago that the ditch is on city property.
Gralik said the city typically doesn’t weed-whack or mow city easements; they’re the homeowners’ responsibility.
He said he would continue to look into the problem and see if there are other solutions.
“Hopefully, a fresh set of eyes will help,” he said.