Berea neighbors file petition to remove councilman as flooding fight continues

Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 6:44 AM EDT

BEREA, Ohio (WOIO) - Just the mention of rain sends one Northeast Ohio community into a panic, because the rain is often followed by flooding.

Dennis Knowles told 19 News, “People have lost their insurance, you’re losing personal property out of your home, photographs, and mementos. We’re losing things that you can’t replace.”

They’ve collected a flood of signatures, and have filed a recall petition, hoping to oust their councilman out of office.

The group, who formed a coalition last year after major flooding in their homes, said they’re tired of broken promises to fix flooding issues that have plagued them for more than a decade.

This isn’t the first time 19 News has visited the River Ridge neighborhood of Berea.

In July of 2021, the same group of neighbors posted signs in their yards calling out the mayor, saying he failed to deal with the flooding issues properly, because when it rains, the water pours into their homes.

Gay Gizzell said, “Panic begins to set in.”

Fortunately, Friday’s heavy rains bypassed homes on Berea’s north end. But, dozens of homes still take in up to two feet of water during heavy rains.

On Thursday, residents filed a recall petition to remove 1st Ward Councilman Leon Dozier.

They said he promised to use American Rescue Plan dollars from the federal government to help address the flooding issues, including adding a new connection to the sewer district’s interceptor pipe, to relieve pressure and backup in the system.

Knowles told 19 News, “We just think that the administration and Leon Dozier are moving much too slow on this, and we’ve got to get this solved, we’ve got to get this right finally.”

Sisters Gail and Gay Grizzell also accuse Councilman Dozier of not returning phone calls or emails to the people he was elected to represent.

Gay Grizzell said, “He’s had time to prove himself, he’s had time to assist and he’s done neither of those things.”

The group says they fell like they’re literally fighting to keep their heads above water, because even though the mayor said Berea has spent nearly $3 million to rehab the sewer system in their ward, residents don’t believe it included expanding the sewer’s capacity.

Now, they say the city wants some residents to foot the bill for the flooding fix, “At least give us a stipend or something to take care of the cost.”

19 News called Councilman Dozier’s cell phone several times to get his side of the story and all we got was a recording that said, “I’m sorry, the person you are trying to reach has a voicemail that has not been set up yet.”

Neighbor Gail Grizzell asked, “This is how we’re supposed to reach our councilman?”

So, we went to the councilman’s home in the same area of the flooding issues, but after knocking and ringing the doorbell several times, no one answered. So, we left a note.

“I hate that this has to happen, but I hate cleaning up my basement even more,” Gail Grizzell said.

Councilman Dozier did contact a 19 News reporter minutes after the story aired on TV and said he was out of town.

He went on to say the group trying to remove him from office is aware that the city of Berea is working to mitigate the flooding problem, and has poured $250,000 in to relining the sewer system in that ward.

He also said he recused himself from writing legislation that would reimburse residents money they spent out of pocket to address the flooding problems, because since he lives in the same neighborhood and also has flooding issues it would benefit him as well.

Councilman Dozier feels that would be an ethics violation.

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