Drainage waters flood Rittertown residents

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

Sheila Alvis has lived in Streets Trailer Park on Rittertown Road for the past five years with few incidents. This past January, Alvis and several of her neighbors battled rising waters which resulted in a substantial amount of damage to their lawns and homes. This week's rainfall has flooded many of the same homes again, and residents in the Rittertown area are looking to the Carter County Highway Department for answers.
   The Carter County Highway Department placed a drainage culvert on the south side of Rittertown Road in order to eliminate some of the drainage problems with waters running down from White Pine Hill. Residents on the south side of the road believe the installation of the drainage culvert is the reason their homes are being flooded. "I do not mind what God gives us, but I do mind what Carter County gives us, and the only water I want from Carter County is through my pipes and I will pay for it. I do not want their free water any more," Alvis said. "If this were caused by the weather then we would have to just say, 'oh well,' but the county has caused this water to dump on us."
   Alvis and other residents in Streets Trailer Park do not understand why the Highway Department does not continue to divert the waters into the creek behind their homes instead of allowing it to saturate their land. "All they would have to do instead of running it into our yard is take it down to the creek and that way nobody would get flooded. It would not cost them that much more and I do not mind them running it through my yard if they need to," Alvis said.
   Streets Trailer Park owner, Billy Jo Street, dug a ditch around Alvis' home to divert the water from her lawn. Many of the residents believe that if the county would provide more ditches and deepen the ones that already exist, part of the problem would be eliminated. All ditches cut off before they reach the trailer park, which causes the area to swell with water that runs from the drainage culvert just above them.
   The drainage culvert opens into Sid and Deanna Smith's backyard and water runs from their lawn into Streets Trailer Park behind them. "Every time there is a good rain this happens. We have put in repeated calls to the Highway Department," Deanna Smith said. "It is completely ruining our property."
   This week's flood is the second since January that has resulted in damage to the Smiths' property. They have had to install their own drain line and purchase a water pump to keep the drainage out of their basement. "We have lost area rugs and toys, and the water is rusting our washer and dryer," Deanna Smith said. Smith noted that debris from the other side of the road washes in to their lawn and they are left with a monumental mess when the waters recede.
   The Highway Department stated that the drainage system is designed to run through Stevens Circle, cross the road and drain into a catch basin near Streets Trailer Park. Jim Strickland, with the Carter County Highway Department, stated the county does not have any right of way in the trailer park, and therefore cannot run a drainage system through it. "Our biggest problem countywide is that we do not have rights of way through private land," Strickland said. "All of our deeds just call for blacktop roads."
   Strickland stated that even if residents allowed the county to put a drainage system on their land the Highway Department could not touch their property if it is not reachable from a county road. Residents in Streets Trailer Park stated that Marlow Lane is indeed a county road and that it runs directly in to their neighborhood.
   Carter County Highway Supt. Jack Perkins asserted that the blockage in the 36-inch drainage tile in front of Rittertown Baptist Church is causing the problem in Rittertown, not the drainage culvert in the Smiths' lawn. Six men from the Highway Department worked to clear the drainage tile on Monday and Tuesday. Perkins noted that some of the problem stems from residents not disposing of their trash properly, which causes blockages in the drainage system.
   There was as much as six inches of water in some places on Rittertown Road Tuesday afternoon. "We spent four hours out there Monday and were out there until 7 p.m. Tuesday. We had equipment out there trying to unstop the tile," Perkins said. Residents in Streets Trailer Park stated that clearing out the drainage tile may have solved the problem of water on the county road, but only allowed more water to poor on to their properties.
   The residents in Rittertown and the Highway Department seem to be at a stalemate as to where drainage should be directed. Although the Highway Department stated that it would like to work together with the residents, it acknowledges its limitations in solving the problem. "The only place where we can divert water is where the original cross drains were," Strickland said.