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Midway home floods as city, county look for drainage solution
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County Public Works Director Clenton Wells and Ann Ruggles discuss a drainage problem as county workers try to free an excavator stuck in Ruggles yard on July 27. - photo by Tiffany King

Roger and Ann Ruggles fear they will be flooded out of their home by drainage problems they say the city of Midway has neglected.

The Ruggles bought their home at the end of Marie Avenue 11 years ago. It is at the bottom of a hill, and heavy rains often floods their property.

“The city didn’t finish the drainage ditch in the front for water to runoff,” Ann Ruggles said. “They stopped at our property. They didn’t complete it past our property. So all the water that rains from the top of the hill, all the way down here, comes to our property.”

She said a ditch behind her property is also backed up.

“Then they started building at Lake Gale,” Ruggles said. “Lake Gale is right behind us. They decide to make a runoff from Lake Gales and it goes right to the back of (her backyard yard).”

“Yesterday (July 17) we got flooded. It came clear up to our house.”

The water has seeped into a shed, damaging tools and washed away landscaping, which, she said, they spent more than $1,000 on.

Ann Ruggles said the city refuses address their concerns.

“My husband went to an open meeting and begged the mayor (Dr. Clemontine Washington), showed her pictures and told her our problem. We have done this since we moved here. The first mayor was Mayor (James) Shipman. We told him about it. Then the next mayor (Don Emmons) that came in. We told him about it. … They refuse to do anything about.”

Each time, she said, the response was “We’re looking into it.”

“We’re going to lose our home and insurance won’t pay for the damages,” she said. “We live from paycheck to paycheck.”

Officials have said they have tried to fix the problem.

In an email, Washington wrote that the city was made aware of the situation in 2015 and “took steps to remedy the things that we could at that time.” What those specifics steps were was not explained.

Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission engineering director Abe Nadji, said the Ruggles’ subdivision is more than 35 years old and was under the county’s jurisdiction until Midway annexed it. Nadji said he told Roger Ruggles earlier their problem is beyond the city and has to go before the Liberty County Commission.

Nadji said there is supposed to be a ditch between the front ditch and the one in back. Ann Ruggles contends there has never been a ditch like that, even before their lot was leveled.

On July 27, an excavator from the county Public Works department went to the Ruggles’ property to clean out the rear ditch. Clenton Wells, public works director, said he saw dirt blocking the ditch and sent a crew. The excavator bogged down and a crew came to get it out. They also had to fill the hole created where the excavator got stuck.

Wells and Ruggles had a heated conversation about the ditches.

“Before you bought the place, there were some other people who used to live here,” Wells said. “They cut the swell because the water in the yard was flooding. This is where all the water drains from Hollingsworth, Marie and everywhere. All of it comes down through here...”

Wells said that whenever water backs up and at the front ditch it’s because it can’t get to the rear ditch, which is clogged anyway.

“…If this (rear) ditch was cleaned up and opened up all the way, then water could go this way. But when you have so much rain at one time, it gets blocked up and it won’t go.”

Wells said Lake Gale sometimes runs off on the Ruggles’ property because it is lower. He said the city has to address that issue.

“All we do is routine maintenance for the city of Midway. You have to get something carried out. If the city can get drainage easements, then I’ll be happy to come out,” Wells said.

Public works cannot extend the rear ditch without permission from the city, Wells said.

Marion Stevens, Liberty County commissioner over that district, said he asked for Public Works to clear out the ditch. He was made aware about the excavator getting bogged down, and called the Ruggles to follow up. Both said their conversation did not go well.

Stevens said he told her that she is in the city.

“You go to the mayor, the mayor blames the county. You talk to the county, the county says it’s the mayor,” Roger Ruggles said.

He feels that Marie Avenue does not get the same maintenance as nearby roads.

“Why do we have to go through all this stuff to get something done in our county or city? We pay the same taxes as anybody else,” Roger Ruggles said. “Liberty County gave us approval for us to put our house there … It was approved for occupancy.”

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