MOUNT VERNON — After tightening up more definitions and clarifying language, council members concluded what they acknowledged was a long, arduous process: They passed legislation creating a stormwater utility.
All conceded that there will be questions and possible revisions or tweaking by the next council, but they also agreed that the legislation they passed Monday on its third reading was a good first step. As Councilwoman Nancy Vail put it, the “frailties” can be addressed by the next council.
The other council members echoed Councilman John Francis' sentiments.
“I appreciate the public's help and the input we've received,” he said.
Legislation authorizing engineering services for a water line extension project to the Ariel-Foundation Park area was also up for a third reading. After discussing the project, council postponed the third reading until Dec. 9. Councilman Sam Barone said council was “still in a fact-finding mode.”
The project originated with the need to extend a water line large enough for fire suppression to the Schnormeier Event Center. The city is operating under a temporary occupancy permit until it provides the line. City Engineer Brian Ball said the time frame for the temporary occupancy permit runs out next year.
The initial scope evolved into a discussion about potentially extending the lines down Pittsburgh Avenue to Harcourt Road, possibly to include Sixth and Seventh avenues. Ball said that several residents and businesses requested the lines because their shallow wells are failing.
At the Oct. 29 council meeting, John Holland, chairman of Clinton Township's Water and Sewer District, said paying for city water would be too much economic hardship for residents in that area.
Although no resident or business is required to hook into city water, they will pay a monthly water service availability charge of about $40. They will also pay roughly $18 a month in fees to the Clinton Township Water and Sewer District.
Ball said that when residents and businesses ultimately hook into city water, if the water service availability charges exceed the cost of the hook-up fee, the city will waive the hook-up fee. The user will only pay a permit fee and a fee for the meter.
Ball noted that in many cases, residents will see an overall reduction in the amount they spend on water because they will no longer have to buy bottled water at the grocery. Additionally, he said that hooking into city water improves the home value.
In addition to residents' requests for city water, extending the lines to Harcourt Road would create another loop, something which the EPA favors. The EPA does not favor a dead-end pipe, which is what the city would have if it stopped the line at the city limits at Sixth Avenue.
Ball said that another factor to consider is that the area is currently listed as low-income, which makes grant money available for the project. Home values have been increasing, and the next census could potentially raise the area out of the low-income category, making it ineligible for grant money.
Council will hold another committee meeting on Dec. 9 to discuss the project further.
Council also postponed to Nov. 25 the third reading of legislation rezoning 1120 Yauger Road from residential to office-institutional. A public hearing will be held on Nov. 25 prior to the council meeting.
Chestnut Street resident Dennis Swingle spoke to council in its legislative session about an outerbelt in the area of Eastern Star Road. He noted that five studies have been done since 1989 and that at one time, a landowner offered his land for the bypass.
Swingle said the current proposal goes across property whose owner has stated there is no way a road will go across his property. Even so, the city is pursuing cost estimates for the project.
“Given Mr. Swetlic's current position about the sale of his land, are the city administration and the city council ready and willing to acquire the land by eminent domain?” he asked. “Will the city administration make a good faith effort to find the funds to obtain the land and move ahead with the project?”
If not, Swingle said, the city should state this now and not “waste any more taxpayer money chasing yet another engineering study.”
Ball said that the cost analysis for the outerbelt was part of the engineering services council approved in the 2019 budget. A contract signed in May with Richland Engineering included the project. Ball anticipates Richland Engineering will do the cost analysis during the winter or in early spring.