Clintonville's portion of Blueprint Columbus will represent an investment of $80 million, says Leslie R. Westerfelt.

The public relations specialist for the city -- who has served as the public face for the sometimes-controversial plan to keeping storm-water runoff from rushing into the Olentangy River -- came up with that figure at the Nov. 1 meeting of the Clintonville Area Commission.

She was responding to a question from District 6 representative Randy Ketcham, who said while the area he represents has not been affected by the installations of rain gardens and other aspects of Blueprint, many of his constituents question whether the program is cost-effective.

Westerfelt, accompanied by public utilities engineer Hunter W. Kelly, responded that Blueprint Columbus, which eventually will be deployed in 17 different neighborhoods over the next 20 years, was modeled after similar programs in large cities across the country, including Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. She added she could name at least 10 cities that are using rain gardens -- the aspect of Blueprint Columbus that by far has drawn the most complaints from residents.

Toledo and Akron are in the process of installing rain gardens to help eliminate rainwater from getting into sanitary sewer lines, Kelly said.

The gardens work by filtering rainwater through layers of stone, soil and plants before it drains into the river.

Blueprint represented "uncharted territory" for city officials, Westerfelt said.

The project has been far more "invasive" than city projects normally are, she said.

Rain gardens are located in the public right of way but in areas that many residents regard as their property, she said.

"This has not gone well, this first round," Westerfelt said.

"We should have done a better job explaining what this was," she added, particularly the impact of construction on residents and their streets.

Westerfelt's original purpose in appearing at the November CAC session was to provide an update on where Blueprint currently stands.

Work is wrapping up on Blenheim and Glencoe roads, with grass restoration and paving, she said.

Final plantings will not take place until spring for another section closer to the intersection of Morse Road and Indianola Avenue, she said.

Westerfelt noted that "paving has been a hot topic" among residents whose streets have had rain gardens installed.

She said Blueprint planners are seeking to coordinate with the Department of Public Service regarding paving.

Kelly, who said he is a Clintonville resident, said the reason some Blueprint streets have so far not been repaved is that those in sufficiently poor shape may be due for a complete overhaul, not just in the areas where the rain gardens were placed.

"We're working the details out," he said. "We recognize that some of those streets ... are in real bad shape."

Curb restoration generally happens in conjunction with repaving, but only where it was impacted by Blueprint, Westerfelt said.

"If we didn't cut your curb, we're not going to replace it," she said, noting that simply would be too costly.

Westerfelt provided a telephone number, monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by which people may report flooding and other problems related to storm water. That number is 614-645-7102.

Surveyors are in the field preparing for the second phase of Blueprint, Westerfelt said, the aspect that will involve workers coming onto private property to accomplish two goals. One is to ensure that downspouts are directing water off the roofs of houses not onto lawns, but out to the streets, where it can be captured and filtered by the rain gardens.

The second involves fixing lateral lines, the connections between homes and the sanitary sewer. Westerfelt said most residences in the project area have clay pipes that are deteriorating. The repair involves using a balloon to apply a resin inside these lines, filling in the cracks and ensuring they are "good for 50 years," Westerfelt said.

"We are listening to you guys," she said at the end of her presentation. "I can't emphasize that enough."

"No, you're not!" a woman in the audience responded.

CAC Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt ruled the woman out of order, and Westerfelt took her into the hallway to address her issue.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1