It has taken them years to find success, but a group of Linden Lanes residents has finally proven you can fight city hall.
Well, not exactly "fight" them, Evergreen Boulevard resident Wendy Bulloch said with a chuckle — "We want to work with them."
Despite their recent success, lingering frustrations prevail regarding what it has taken for the city to finally take action to mitigate flooding in the area.
At issue is a drainage ditch that runs along the railway tracks — specifically, from 34th Street to 26th Street, north of Brandon Avenue and Willowdale Crescent.
Forest Boulevard resident John Kennedy said that he has lived in the area for 48 years, and the first 33 were pretty good in that there was little flooding.
Since then, he said, the city let the ditch become overgrown, which he believes may have contributed to a few flood events in recent years.
Bulloch said her basement has flooded three times in the last couple of decades, including 2005, 2013 and then again earlier this year.
Although she doesn’t necessarily blame the overgrown ditch for these floods, she said it certainly didn’t help and might have made flooding worse than it would have otherwise been.
During the past three and a half years, she said she has reached out to the City of Brandon 32 times to request they do something about the ditch, and that’s on top of the inquiries of Kennedy and other area residents.
The final straw was this summer’s flooding that came as a result of a rainstorm event, which she estimates flooded approximately 70 homes in the area.
Among 24 area households surveyed by a group of concerned citizens, $372,000 in insurance claims were filed as a result of that incident alone, in addition to spending $88,000 of their own money to do repairs.
After Bulloch and fellow Evergreen Boulevard resident Alicia Gawaziuk presented this information to Brandon City Council on July 13, the ditch was finally cleared, but it turns out the job wasn’t quite done yet.
Approximately one month ago, Coun. Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes) followed up on residents’ ongoing concerns, strapped on hip-waders and waded into the ditch.
His mentality at the time, he said, was to either quell residents’ concerns or "go to the city and have one hell of a fight."
It turns out he was in for the latter, because the culvert that runs under 26th Street was clogged with debris.
This resulted in another wave of conversations between residents and city officials, including a meeting on Nov. 4. Residents suggested the city hire a third-party contractor that has the equipment needed to unclog the culvert.
One month later, they’re still waiting for the culvert to be cleared.
"There’s going to lot of anxiety next spring if they don’t get that culvert cleared out," Bulloch said.
Acting city manager Dean Hammond said that the contractor has been to the site, although he was uncertain on Sunday as to whether they’d completed the work or just scheduled it.
Either way, he said they’re striving to get it done before the spring melt so they don’t run the added risk of having to pump water next year.
"The ultimate goal is to get the culvert clear — that’s the ultimate solution."
He couldn’t speak to past delays on the spot, but clarified there were some issues with equipment breaking down for "quite a while," which delayed work.
Further, he said a more substantive fix is also in the works — possibly a concrete culvert to replace the existing infrastructure.
Even with a fix in the works, some area residents remain unimpressed and have continued reaching out to Berry to help relay their concerns to city hall.
"I’m not happy with the whole situation," Berry said on Saturday, before touring the site with Kennedy and Bulloch. "It’s totally unacceptable. … There’s no way the residents should be the big push behind this."
Gawaziuk is part of the community push, and said it has been "so disturbing … that it’s residents taking the bull by the horns and finding the problem, and if we are not on them, if we are not sending emails and presenting at council, they’re letting it rest."
Clearing the ditch and culvert of debris should have been done in a timely manner as part of regular maintenance, not a result of a years-long persistent push from area residents, she said.
Bulloch said that she has already installed a sewer backup valve in her house, along with two sump pumps, a battery-operated system that kicks in if the power goes out and an alarm that sounds if water rises too high for the sump pumps to handle.
She’s reluctant to leave town during the summer for fear of another flood event, whose impacts she can’t do much more to migitate other than urge the city to do their part and take a more proactive approach.
Berry said that he hopes speaking out doesn’t put a strain on his relationship with city administration, but that he can see where the residents are coming from.
"I absolutely don’t blame them," he said, adding that he has lived in the ward for 36 years and doesn’t understand why maintenance slipped so badly that it took the hard, detailed work of residents persistently raising alarm bells for something to finally get done.
"None of these things would have been done if not for the push of the residents."
On this front, Bulloch said their story might serve as a warning to others.
"People have to be vigilant," she said. "If this is happening here, is it happening in other areas?"
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB