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Norton Council sets special election date

9/26/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

Also going ahead with sewer project for Nash Heights

NORTON — Norton City Council members settled on the date of Dec. 10 to hold a special election for another citizen-initiated ballot issue during the Sept. 23 meeting.

The proposed charter amendment would limit the amount spent by property owners for water and sewer improvements to $5,000. 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.”

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.

The petition got the necessary number of signatures but was not submitted in time for the Nov. 5 General Election ballot. A special election for the issue must take place within 120 days of Council’s adoption of it, according to city officials.

Several factors came into play when considering when to hold the election for it, including taxpayer cost and potential legal expenses. For the past few weeks, Council had considered several dates in November, but could not agree on one specific date.

Councilwoman Charlotte Whipkey (at large) said she talked with Joseph Masich, the director of the Summit County Board of Elections, about Council’s options.

“Mr. Masich strongly suggested we hold the special election either on Dec. 10th or 17th,” Whipkey said.

Council members Dennis McGlone (at large), Scott Pelot (at large) and President Don Nicolard (Ward 2) said holding the election on Feb. 4, when a county-wide election already was scheduled, was a better option. Holding the election on that day would save the city money in terms of man hours worked to count provisional and official ballots and other services needed during an election.

According to Whipkey, Paluch is threatening to take the city to court if the election were not held Dec. 10, for delaying getting the issue on the ballot.

“The money that we would potentially save by holding this election in February would be wasted in legal fees,” Whipkey said. “I think it’s in the best interest of the city for us to hold this election on Dec. 10.”

Councilman Todd Bergstrom (Ward 1) said there was no guarantee legal action would be taken.

“Holding the election in February could be significantly less money for the taxpayers,” he said.

According to city officials, while the cost of the special election won’t be known until it’s held, it would cost at least $15,000, the amount the city paid for the Aug. 6 election.

Council members voted 5-2 in favor of holding the special election Dec. 10, with Pelot and Nicolard voting against it.

According to city officials, once Mayor Mike Zita signs the ballot issue, it will be sent to the Summit County Board of Elections for approval. If it is approved, the special election would be held at that time.

Council members also OK’d the final reading of a resolution declaring it necessary to improve Croydon, Rangely and Easton roads; Higgins, Brookside and Clubview drives; Brookside Court; and certain other parcels in constructing and installing sanitary sewer lines for the Nash Heights Sanitary Sewer Improvements — East Phase Project. The resolution passed 5-2, with Whipkey and Councilman Bill Mowery (Ward 3) voting against it.

The city received a letter from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Sept. 13 ordering the city to proceed on a proposed sewer project in the Nash Heights neighborhood.

The letter noted that unsanitary conditions have occurred in the city as a result of the discharge of pollutants from inadequate or failing home sewage disposal systems. The orders require the city to submit a general plan for abating pollution and correcting unsanitary conditions.

Council unanimously approved a resolution to authorize the mayor to meet with the EPA regarding the proposed findings and orders.

In other business, Council unanimously approved:

  • an ordinance authorizing the purchase of a 2014 Dodge Charger for the Norton Police Department not to exceed the cost of $26,000;
  • an ordinance adopting various insurance plans for various periods for city employees. According to city officials, this ordinance renews the current plan city employees are under before the Affordable Care Act takes effect; and
  • an ordinance amending a previous ordinance which authorized the mayor and/or administrative officer to execute and deliver a cost-sharing agreement with the city of Barberton for the construction of the 31st Street N.W. and South Cleveland-Massillon Road waterline replacement project. According to city officials, this is just an extension of an earlier project.

City officials also announced trick-or-treating in the city will be held Oct. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Norton City Council next will meet for a work session Oct. 7 and for its regular meeting Oct. 15 (a day later due to Columbus Day), both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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