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Norton to hold special election

9/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

Water, sewer issue headed to ballot

NORTON — Norton residents once again will vote on an issue regarding water and sewer lines on a future ballot.

The Summit County Board of Elections (BOE) certified that a petition for a proposed charter amendment regarding sewer and water lines had obtained the required number of signatures and must appear on a ballot for residents to vote on.

Unfortunately, according to Norton Law Director Peter Kostoff, the deadline for the issue to appear on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot was not met, so a special election must be held. City Council members discussed the issue at the Sept. 9 meeting.

The petition, circulated by resident William Paluch, states, “No city of Norton resident or property owner shall be assessed a total combined fee for construction of and connection to water and/or sewer lines in excess of $5,000. City of Norton residents or property owners currently paying assessments, who have paid a total combined fee of $5,000 or more for water and/or sewer lines, shall have future payments of their assessments paid by the city of Norton from the date this charter amendment is approved by the electors.”

“The action taken tonight is simply a ministerial act,” Kostoff explained. “Voting ‘yes’ does not imply your support of this issue, only that you support putting it on the ballot, which is required by law.”

Council members agreed to hold the special election on Nov. 12, which is the Tuesday after the General Election. The resolution to place the issue on a ballot will be read two more times at upcoming City Council meetings before an official vote is made.

If the charter amendment issue passes during the special election, Kostoff said the city of Norton then will review the petition and its constitutionality.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Paluch thanked Council members for their time with this issue and expediting it.

“I could have gathered thousands more signatures,” he said. “People are fed up with Council members not listening to what they want.”

Norton voters rejected a similar proposed charter amendment in the Aug. 6 Special Election. That charter amendment would have eliminated assessments for sewer and water lines and capped water and sewer charges.

According to the BOE, nearly 52 percent of city voters cast votes against that issue, a Citizens4Norton-proposed charter amendment. The BOE reported that 3,508 total votes were cast in the election, the only one in Summit County that day, and voter turnout in Norton was 43 percent.

City officials and most City Council members were against that amendment, which came in response to the city’s plans to add sewers to certain neighborhoods due to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency concerns, particularly in the Nash Heights neighborhood.

In a phone interview earlier Monday with Council President Don Nicolard (Ward 2), he said Council has been working on a plan with city administrators that would establish set rates for water and sewer projects in the next few years.

“If we go forward with the memorandum of understanding with the county and end up buying the sewer system, we could fix that rate,” Nicolard said. “There would be no county tap-in fee, no Barberton fee, just that fixed amount.”

He said the proposed figure for the first year is $10,900. Homeowners would also have to pay to have their septic tanks crushed, he added.

The fee schedule is based on the city buying the sewers from the county at a cost of $2 million over a period of 10 years, Nicolard said.

“We discussed this at a work session three weeks ago,” Nicolard said. “It’s being worked on. I hope we can move forward with that.”

Should the sewer projects come to be, Nicolard said the costs could be assessed and paid off over time, if property owners prefer.

In other business at the Sept. 9 meeting, Council:

  • heard the second reading of a resolution declaring it necessary to improve certain roads in the Nash Heights area by installing sanitary sewer lines; and
  • was reminded the 25th annual Cider Festival will take place Oct. 4-6, the Barberton Mum Festival will be held Sept. 28-29 and a document shredding day will be held Sept. 14 [see Page 8 for more on that].

Council next will meet for a work session Sept. 16 and for its regular meeting Sept. 23, both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

 

Kathleen Folkerth contributed to this report.

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