With funds starting to run dry, Brady Lake Village remains wet

Brock Harrington

Spillway causes problems for small, nearby community outside Kent limits

Last April, several Brady Lake residents who live on West Shore Drive learned what happens to their homes during spring showers. With normal lake levels hovering at an average height of 1,052 above sea level, residents discovered an added two feet can cause flooding and even road closings.

These residents may have to get used to the problem.

Brady Lake, which is a small community surrounding the city of Kent and has been fully independent of Franklin Township since 1993, was originally home to an amusement park. The biggest feature of the park was the lake – Brady Lake. In 1881, according to mayor Hal Lehman, a spillway was built around the lake to prevent flooding.

The spillway was built out of road-rail irons and, at the time, was successful in its job. But now the spillway is blocked and Lehman is out of options for a solution.

“We tried three years ago to get (the spillway fixed), but we couldn’t,” Lehman said. “(This past spring) was much worse though.”

With a price tag of $87,000, the project isn’t cheap, Lehman said. The cost of the construction would be close to one-fourth of the village’s $400,000 yearly budget. Lehman said the process of obtaining the funds to replace the spillway has been painful.

“We didn’t qualify for (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds,” Lehman said. Because of the small size of Brady Lake Village, Lehman said his written request, which FEMA’s Flood Protection Restoration report from April requires, was denied. The mayor said FEMA usually grants support to communities that have at least 25 flooded houses, while Brady Lake Village has only 12 homes that are susceptical flooding.

Without the help of FEMA, Lehman turned to Rep. Tim Ryan for help, but received none. The Ohio Public Works Commission and state representatives were also contacted, but Lehman said his requests went nowhere.

Portage County commissioner Chris Smeiles, who is up for re-election next month, said he has been involved with the spillway project since the spring floods and has directed his office to assist the village in every way. Smeiles said grant money could be a solution to the problem, but said the search for funds is ongoing.

“We need to try and get this done,” Lehman said of the spillway project. “We tried everywhere (for help).”

Steve Hardesty, the City of Kent’s water plant manager, who takes water measures of Brady Lake, said since the spillway collapsed, the community has been “at the mercy of mother nature.”

The relationship between Brady Lake Village and the City of Kent has been strained ever since the installation of the Breakneck Creek Wellfield in the 1960s. Brady Lake Village has filed several lawsuits against Kent, but each lawsuit, which were all won by Kent, dealt with the decline of the lake level- making the current situation an ironic one.

However, if Brady Lake Village’s long believed argument of Breakneck Creek impacting the water levels, then Kent city officials have not noticed it during the over-flow.

“The out fall from Brady Lake goes to Breakneck Creek,” service director Gene Roberts said, ” but that all occurs outside the city.”

With Kent being safe from the dangers of an ineffective spillway, and seemingly no help from federal and state government agencies, Brady Lake is still open to damages. Residences rely on local water wells for clean water, but repeated flooding could damage septic tanks and make the drinking water unsanitary, which Lehman said is an extreme case, but possible. Other immediate threats are to the roadways along the lake shore, which are near 28 feet above sea level.

The $87,000 price tag for a new spillway would involve new metal casing and a new spillway line. Hardesty suggested new piping as a possibility for a solution, but Lehman said the original spillway limits what actions can be done.

The inability to solve the problem is frustrating, and the occasional assistance from Franklin Township when pumping water off the road is helpful, but until Brady Lake Village finds funds, Lehman said residents need to keep monitoring the water levels during storms. The most recent lake level showed Brady Lake was normal, or 1,052 feet above sea level.

Although the mayor can do little more than warn his residents, he does believe the economic perception of Brady Lake Village as a “middle-class community” has played a large role in FEMA’s decision making.

“Other areas of the country receive the same (FEMA) funds, so the thought is ‘why can’t (Brady Lake Village)?'” Lehman said.

Contact public affairs reporter Brock Harrington at [email protected].