Lisa Jeffrey Hazen & Sawyer

Lisa Jeffrey of Hazen and Sawyer updates Mount Vernon City Council on the need for a storm water utility.

MOUNT VERNON — Council members heard for the first time on Monday the recommendations of the Storm Water Advisory Committee (SWAC), the group charged with deciding whether a storm water utility is a viable option for the city.

During a 55-minute meeting of the city's Utility Committee, Lisa Jeffrey and Kathleen Smith of Hazen and Sawyer presented the results of the SWAC's four meetings. Smith said recommendations include creating a utility and funding it to the level that not only allows the city to meet current Ohio EPA requirements, but to also allow it to begin investing in infrastructure. Part of that investment is having dollars to match for federal and state grants.

Reaching that funding level means residents would be charged $6 per Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). One ERU equals 2,900 square feet. Most residences in the city fall into this category.

Churches, schools, commercial, and industrial properties will pay $6 per ERU based on their total square footage.

Smith also reported the committee recommends developing separate funding categories to handle special storm water projects and giving credits to non-residential users who help the city in its OEPA compliance.

The $6 per ERU will generate $1.4 million. Taking into account potential credits and nonpayment of bills, Smith said $1.3 million in revenue is realistic.

The city is exploring the idea of a storm water utility because it is in violation of OEPA regulations. Due to lack of funds, the city cannot keep up with the required catch basins and pond inspections and culvert, tile, sink hole, and drainage projects.

Council President Bruce Hawkins said, “The people I have heard from are in favor [of a utility] because they have immediate needs, but how do you prioritize the projects?”

City Engineer Brian Ball said the city has created a draft five-year plan based on tracking expenditures over the past few years and forecasting that forward.

Similar to SWAC meetings, much of council's discussion focused on tiers, the separate funding categories to handle special projects. The committee proposes two tiers:

  • Maintenance: areas where the city performs maintenance such as mowing for private development. Residents in these areas will pay an additional amount for the maintenance.
  • Capital: for capital improvement projects on private property that are creating issues for which the city is responsible for resolving.

One such capital improvement area is The Landings subdivision on Yauger Road. Councilman Chris Menapace, chairman of the Utilities Committee, agrees improvements are needed but is concerned about transparency to the residents of The Landings. He feels there should be a parallel discussion about their responsibility for covering the improvement cost and what that cost will be.

“Those people will vote and they need to know how they will be affected,” he said.

Councilman Sam Barone does not want the ordinance imperiled by people misunderstanding that they will be paying for resolution of a private issue. Councilwoman Nancy Vail disagrees that only the residents involved in a capital improvement project should pay and advocated the cost be spread among all city residents.

“We are a community together, we don't worry about who lives where,” she said. “People are living throughout this community and people are responsible for all of us.”

Because the committee meeting ran so close to the start of the 7:30 legislative session, Menapace closed the discussion before anyone from the audience could speak. SWAC member Bruce Malek attempted to but was denied the opportunity. Another committee meeting is scheduled for the June 24 meeting.

In its legislative session, council took the following actions:

  • Passed a resolution allowing the city to sell city property via the internet
  • Authorized the city auditor to transfer funds
  • Gave a second reading to a chronic nuisance abatement ordinance
  • Gave a second reading to an ordinance allowing golf carts and under-speed vehicles on city streets

In other news, Mayor Richard Mavis read a proclamation declaring Monday, June 10, as “Sam Bethea Day” in recognition of Bethea winning the state track championship in the 110-meter hurdles.

Sam Bethea proclamation

Sam Bethea reacts as he hears Mayor Richard Mavis proclaim Monday, June 10, 2019, as "Sam Bethea Day" in the city of Mount Vernon. Bethea was honored for winning the state track championship in the 110-meter hurdles. Also pictured are Bethea's mom and grandfather.

Martin McAvoy updated council on the village shuttle routes which went into effect this week through Knox Area Transit. In an Employees and Public Relations Committee meeting, council discussed the downtown Strategic Economic Development Plan presented by Carrie Hyman of Main Street Mount Vernon.