The Wood County Engineer’s Office has a logjam of petitioned ditch projects.
After getting phone calls from a citizen upset about the lack of progress on a ditch cleanout project,
the county commissioners asked for a meeting Tuesday with county engineer Ray Huber.
Huber said his office is so backed up on ditch projects that he was considering asking the county
commissioners to issue a moratorium on ditch petitions. He explained the engineer’s office is
"juggling" five petitioned projects right now. And one of the projects – involving two
branches of the Portage River – is incredibly large and time-consuming, covering about 10,000 parcels of
"We’re having a little problem with prioritizing and staff," Huber said.
But that is of little comfort to landowners who petitioned about five years ago to have the "Smith
Ditch" cleaned out so flooding would be reduced. The 2.5-mile ditch is located west of Bowling
Green, in Washington and Plain townships, starting south of West Poe Road, running along the west side
of Potter Road, through farm fields then emptying into a ditch on Range Line Road.
"It’s been a long time since it’s been cleaned out," said Glenn Agner, the ditch expert in the
county engineer’s office.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that an engineer’s office employee had reportedly started the
preliminary planning process for the ditch in question, but then left the records in
"shambles" when he left the office.
"We’re now beginning to find bits and pieces scattered across the computer system," Huber said.
"I really don’t have an answer for him," he said of the landowner’s request to know when the
project will proceed.
Wood County Commissioner Alvie Perkins asked the engineer if his office was understaffed.
"That’s a given in the ditch department," Huber responded.
So the commissioners then asked the engineer why he had not submitted a proposal to add staff to handle
the logjam of ditch projects – rather than proposing a moratorium.
"Anything that can help you get the job done," Perkins said.
"Bottom line, you let us know how you want to proceed and we’ll make it happen," Commissioner
Tim Brown said.
The deadline to file a final plan for the Smith Ditch cleanout was previously extended to August – but
that will not be enough time, Huber told the commissioners.
"I can assure you we will not have plans ready," he said.
Both Huber and Agner explained that the ditch petition process is quite complicated, and efforts were
currently underway to train other staff members in the engineer’s office to share some of the work.
"We will continue to pursue it, the best we can with the resources we’ve got," Huber said.
"There’s a lot of work most people don’t see."
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar asked about the possibility of using a consultant to do some of
the ditch planning. Huber and Agner said that could lead to more work than it’s worth. "We would
have to train a consultant how to do this," Huber said.
So the commissioners repeated their request that Huber submit a proposal for more staff to handle the
backlog, rather than consider a moratorium on ditch petitions -which Brown said is probably impossible
"People have the right under the law to petition," he said.