MOUNT VERNON — Legislation authorizing engineering services for extending water lines to the Ariel-Foundation Park area met with resistance on Monday evening during a city Utilities Committee meeting.
John Holland, chairman of Clinton Township's Water and Sewer District, says the city is “creating an economic impact for low-income families who can't even pay their sewer bill now.”
The proposal stems from the need to extend a water line large enough for fire suppression to the Schnormeir Event Center in Ariel-Foundation Park. The center has a temporary occupancy permit until it provides that line.
“(The event center has) three years to connect to a city water line large enough to provide fire suppression system,” said City Engineer Brian Ball. “At the same time, we have this area in our water master plan, to extend water service.”
Ball said there is no set limit to the total area under consideration in the master plan. Short-term, the plan is to hook into a 12-inch main on Norton Street, connect to Pittsburgh Avenue via Neal Avenue, and then to the south side of the Schnormeir Event Center.
Potentially, in different phases, a line could extend the entire length of Pittsburgh Avenue to Harcourt Road with connections to the side streets off of Pittsburgh Avenue. Ariel-Foundation Park is in the city. South of Pittsburgh Avenue and west of Sixth Avenue lie in Clinton Township.
“We've had numerous requests from people on Sixth and Seventh Avenue for water service,” said Ball, adding that most of them have shallow wells.
With the extreme dryness this year, some residents have called in saying they have only had water several days a week.
"The city has water to sell," he said.
Councilman Mike Hillier questioned why the city is installing new water lines in order to sell water when other water lines throughout the city need replaced.
“The plan is every year to replace lines and install new lines to service new neighborhoods,” said Ball. “When Siemens shut down we lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in water revenue. Would you prefer we raise the rates to make up for that or look for new customers?
“If we reach outside of our corporation limit, we do have the opportunity to get state and federal aid. So if we get grant money to do these projects, it doesn't take anything at all away from problems in town because we won't have to pay for it out of the utility fund. Or we may have a smaller cost-share.”
The area in Clinton Township qualifies for grant money because it is a low-income area.
Holland said that the client base on Sixth and Seventh avenues (what he referred to as Dogtown) cannot pay for water.
“You are talking about 25% of my delinquency is Dogtown,” he told council. “They can't pay their bill now.”
The neighborhood already has sewer. Holland said that with the addition of water, the sewer and water surcharge rate is “going to kill the economics of these people.”
“I think council has to take a really hard look at what economic impact they're charging low-income people just so you can get grant money,” he said. “We are against this.”
Holland said that he interviewed 37 families in the Dogtown area last fall. Out of the 37, one person wanted city water because he had rust.
Holland also noted the city is extending water lines on Newark Road about which the water and sewer district was not informed.
“There's sewer going in on Parrott Street in our district. We don't know anything about it because administration is not talking to us,” he said. “So what we're saying is we want transparency. We want to know when you're coming across your borders and into ours. Our trustees don't know about it.
"Something has to stop. You have to know where your boundaries are and the impact you have on Clinton Township.”
Township residents are not forced to hook into city water lines. The Knox County Health Department potentially has the authority to require a structure to hook into city sewer services.
Ball said the legislation is for engineering services, not installation and construction. He said that under the agreement with the water and sewer district, the city is required to give it a plan and allow for a 30-day comment period. Ball said that when plans reach that stage, the city will do that.
“In the preliminary phases, we don't have any drawings or any plans, so we haven't done that,” he said. “We have presented to this group and to the trustees a master plan that has these zones where we can extend water. There is a master plan, and we have presented that to the township.”
Ball does not yet know a cost for the engineering services.
Council gave a second reading to the legislation.
During a second Utilities Committee meeting, council members reviewed changes made to the city's stormwater ordinance. The changes were made based on council's previous comments as well as citizen concerns.
In its legislative session, council gave a first reading to legislation amending the stormwater ordinance and creating a stormwater utility. Council will meet in special session in council chambers at City Hall on Monday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m., and then immediately move into a public hearing at 6:35 p.m.
There is no time limit on the public hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, council will convene a Utilities Committee meeting to discuss comments from the public hearing. Following the committee meeting, council will return to the special meeting. Council plans to give the legislation a second reading at that point.
In other legislative business, council:
- Passed as emergencies legislation approving appropriations, including $180,000 from an Ohio Department of Transportation safety grant for Sandusky Street, and fund transfers; the reappointment of James K. Gibson to the Historical Records Commission; and paying $10 an hour for two Kenyon College interns (one in the engineering department, one in water/wastewater)
- Gave a second reading to legislation appointing Mike Whitaker to the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission and rezoning 1120 Yauger Road from residential to office-institutional
- Gave a first reading to legislation reappointing Scott Brenneman to the city's recreation board, Gail Labenne to the Historical Review Commission, and Bev Hamilton to Metropolitan Housing Authority; amending the requirements for the city's waste haulers; and updating the codified ordinances
- Voted to waive the required three readings on legislation amending the city's agreement with the Foundation Park Conservancy for Ariel-Foundation Park, and then voted down the amendment pending more information. Council previously authorized the changes in the agreement but never gave the safety-service director authorization to sign the new agreement. Council members want to know the term of the agreement. The legislation will be brought back to council with the term included.
Leading off the legislative session, Pat Crow, project manager for the Woodward Development Corp., presented Council President Bruce Hawkins with the Preservation Merit Award from the Ohio History Connection’s State Historic Preservation Office. He noted that the city has been a true partner throughout the entire Woodward Opera House restoration project.
Dennis Swingle of East Chestnut Street also spoke, telling council that he supported the idea of an outerbelt on the east side of the city as recently reported in the Mount Vernon News. He said, “that route shows planning for the predicted growth in that area,” and urged council to move now to acquire the land. Councilman Mike Hillier said that he has spoken several times with the landowner, who states he is not interested in selling and has no intention of having a road across his property.
During the remarks portion of the meeting, council members briefly discussed the possibility of a fire station on Upper Gilchrist Road as recently reported by Knox Pages. Several council members noted that in 2010, the city bought a lot on Sychar Road, the site of the former Hiawatha School, as a future site for an east-end fire station. The school was demolished in 2011.
The city purchased the lot based, in part, on a study that projected growth on the city's east side and that identified the lot as a suitable site. Auditor Terry Scott said that at the time of purchase, the city was also in discussions with College and Monroe fire departments about consolidation. That consolidation never materialized.
Scott said that, in his opinion, the Sychar Road site is still a viable option for a future fire station. Safety-service Director Joel Daniels said that “there is nothing definite at this point” regarding buying land on Upper Gilchrist Road.