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West Towson residents lobby Marks on road issues, flooding

Costs, backlog seen as obstacles for issues on Round Oak, North Bend and Debaugh

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

4:38 PM EDT, October 8, 2012

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Timothy Tenne knows the crusade is one that's been fought before.

Others have lobbied to bring infrastructure improvements to his small corner in West Towson, where he said 90 percent of residents regularly experience yard, home or basement flooding.

But Tenne, a retired Air Force pilot who says he flew a Maryland flag outside his house at each of his 12 stops in the military, believes this time he and his neighbors have a shot.

"The first answers are always, 'no money,' 'can't do it,' " he said. "But I think we can. I think we can work on it."

Last week Tenne organized a meeting of more than a dozen neighbors from Round Oak Road, North Bend Road and Debaugh Avenue in West Towson, and they all showed drainage and erosion problems to 5th District County Councilman David Marks and Raheem Famili of the county's Department of Public Works.

Round Oak Road, which runs south and downhill of West Joppa Road, turns into a veritable waterfall when it rains, residents said. With old, narrow roads and no curbs or storm drains, the water simply runs to the sides of the street and flood their yards.

One street over on Debaugh Avenue, residents use railroad ties to establish a barrier and keep the rain water from washing away any more of their yards.

A storm drain in the middle of North Bend Road has diverted some of the water, but not enough to keep many of those yards from flooding as well.

A few days after the meeting with marks, the area received more rainfall with this past weekend's storms. Tenne said there was nothing "significantly different" about this past weekend's rain — he said many of the residents now simply accept the drainage issues with an air of normalcy.

But that doesn't mean they don't want it fixed. He said the slightest rains soak the ground, and residents are used to getting their feet drenched while walking to their cars — a sensation that will only grow worse as the air gets cooler.

After seeing some the concerns and listening to residents, Famili listed the obstacles the community faces — chief among them the cost of a project to resurface the roadway and install curbs and drains in the road; and the waiting list that already exists for such projects.

Marks recommended residents contact County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to make him aware of the problem, and attend Planning Board meetings to state their case to those who control the purse strings for capital projects.

This week, Marks said the county Department of Public Works has the discretion to fund such projects.

Marks said the department has an allocation that it can work with, but must decide how to dole out county funds.

"There are a number of other communities that have been asking for this for a number of years," he added. "If there's a clear public safety concern, that probably enhances their chances."

Such a concern, Marks said, could exist at the bottom of Round Oak, where the street intersects Charles Street Avenue. There, residents say, the road is always moist with seepage from the side of the road, and in the winter, the water freezes to create a dangerous sheet of ice.

"I think there are some serious drainage issues in that area and the county's going to have to fix them," Marks said. "I think the best solution, however, is to try to get the project done in small chunks over time, because we just don't have the money to get everything done at once."

Tenne said Marks' commitment to help resonated with residents, and after the meeting, Tenne began compiling a formal list of specific problems from specific addresses to present to the county in order to help the problems be addressed more directly.

John Pyle, a former community association president who lives on Debaugh, led a similar campaign when he was in charge some 30 years ago.

As he walked up and down the street, he pointed out the different layers of pavement and erosion that have occurred through the years. Only after having a county employee come and dig under the street to reveal that there wasn't a layer of concrete beneath it did he have any success.

That, however, was three decades ago, and even the patches on the patches of pavement that have mended the road since have begun to erode.

"I think it's great that the guys are trying to do something," Pyle said, "but I hope they have better luck than I did."