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Norton residents question EPA mandate

2/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By John Benson

Residents continued to question Norton City Council members about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandate to resolve contaminated runoff coming from certain areas in the city at the Feb. 25 meeting.

In December, the city once again was informed by the Ohio EPA of a number of discharging and/or failing septic systems that were contributing to bacteria in the Wolf Creek watershed.

The city also received a letter Jan. 7 from Summit County Public Health stating the agency is considering declaring a public health nuisance in a portion of the Nash Heights neighborhood and on Brookside Court.

Dan Karant, Norton’s representative to Summit County Public Health, spoke about the community moving past the acrimony.

“The cost of conversion will be bearable for some and overwhelming for others,” Karant said. “It’s time we find necessary grants and loans affordable. We are now beyond this issue. We, as a city of various people, must find a way to work together. The image we give our city is how we’ll be judged.”

During a special Norton Council meeting this past July on the issue, Norton Administrative Officer Rick Ryland said the EPA told the city in 2009 that about 70 percent of homes in Norton had failing home sewage treatment systems, and a plan to rectify the issue must be implemented or the city could face fines.

“Last week we had a town hall meeting, and I looked out and saw a sea of concerned faces who built this little township into a city,” said resident Tom Kornos. “They’re concerned they’re going to lose their homes or businesses. We’re not talking about affordability. We’re talking about the justification of needing a sewer. Seventy percent of septics are not failing.”

Resident Robin Kerns said her septic system worked fine and questioned whether the administration had the best interest of the residents of Norton in mind.

“One thing you’re missing is, I’m upholding the law,” Ryland said. “You hired me into this position to do that.”

Kerns responded by saying, “[If the sewer assessments happen] I’ll be living under a bridge. These costs aren’t cheap that you’re putting on us.”

Resident Karen Harley offered a different perspective.

“I’m not crazy about the sewers either, but anybody that does have a discharge system on their property from 2007, the mandate from the EPA says it’s illegal,” she said. “It seems people are missing that. They [City Council] don’t pass that ordinance or law. That was passed by the EPA.”

In other business, Council held a public hearing on an ordinance to rezone 4331 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road from an R-1 (Residential) District to a B-2 (Business) District. Council approved the rezoning 6-1, with Councilman Bill Mowery (Ward 3) voting against it.

Council also unanimously approved an ordinance to establish a uniform allowance for part-time patrolmen of the Police Department and authorize the payment of uniform allowances.

“This here is for the uniform allowance, which per the union is afforded to part-time police officers doing the same job as a full-time officer,” said Councilman Scott Pelot (at large). “They’re putting their lives on the line every day and they deserve it.”

Also, Council unanimously approved:

  • a resolution confirming the appointment of Daniel Grether to an unexpired term as a Ward 2 representative on the Planning Commission;
  • a resolution confirming the re-appointment of Dalia Spisak to a four-year term as a representative on the Norton Health Advisory Board;
  • a resolution confirming the appointment of Ed Noble to an unexpired term as an alternate on the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA);
  • a resolution confirming the appointment of Larry Chiavaroli to an unexpired term as a Ward 1 representative on the Planning Commission;
  • a resolution confirming the appointment of Martin West to a three-year term as a Ward 2 representative on the BZA;
  • a resolution of appreciation for Grether for his service as a Ward 2 representative on the BZA;
  • a resolution of appreciation for Janet Jacobs for her service as a Ward 2 representative on the Planning Commission; and
  • a resolution of appreciation for West for his service as an alternate representative on the BZA.

“I’d like to say thank you to all of the board and commission members either getting sworn in again [or] re-upping another term, and say thank you to the ones leaving us tonight,” said Mayor Mike Zita.

At the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large) challenged Law Director Peter Kostoff about a violation of client-attorney privilege in regards to an executive session meeting.

“I’d like to see your immediate resignation,” Whipkey said.

Kostoff made no comment.

Council next plans to meet March 11 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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