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Utility district issue on Green ballot

10/17/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

GREEN — Green residents must choose if they support the abolishment of the city’s sole utility district.

Voters will face Issue No. 10 on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot. The issue could ignite a process to do away with a municipal utility district and allow partnerships between separate utility districts, according to resident Joel Helms, who started an initiative months ago to get the proposed measure on the November ballot.

The issue asks “shall Green’s Codified Ordinance be amended to permit the abolishment of municipal utility districts created under Ohio Revised Code 6115.69; and further to permit strategic partnerships between utility districts existing under Section 6115.69 of the Revised Code and further allowing the creation of utility districts upon petition from property owners?”

Helms explained the issue, if approved, would change the city code’s language so Council no longer has to affiliate with the Summit County Metropolitan Sewer District.

Council President Dave France (Ward 2) has said Council had the responsibility to place the issue on the ballot — whether they agreed with it or not — since all the necessary requirements to place the petition initiative on the ballot were met.

Helms said the residents who supported the initiative want to force the city to allow for the formation of separate sewer districts in the city to obtain cheaper rates.

He explained developers, over the years, put in whatever sewer systems they wanted, which resulted in a great deal of expense to some residents. He said there needs to be more uniformity when it comes to the installation and operation of sanitary sewers in Green.

“There is a lot of diversity right now, and no common solution,” Helms said.

He hopes this measure will get residents and city officials more interested in working together on the “complicated issue.”

Helms believes separate sewer districts could form to allow residents to save about $30 a month on their sewer bills.

City of Green Law Director Stephen Pruneski explained Issue No. 10 is seeking to establish a new chapter of Green’s Codified Ordinances related to sanitary utility districts in the city.

“It is not a proposed charter amendment,” he said.

The only utility district currently existing in the city involves sanitary sewers, Pruneski said.

Green is a part of the Summit County Metropolitan Sewer District, he confirmed.

“This district, a division of Summit County, owns and operates all sanitary sewers and equipment within the boundaries of the city,” Pruneski explained. “From time to time, the city works with the sewer district to construct and extend sanitary sewers to new parts of the city to improve the system that is already in place.”

In his opinion, Issue No. 10 would provide a process for abolishing the utility district, even though the process exists currently through provisions in the Ohio Revised Code.

Pruneski added the Ohio Revised Code already does not prevent proposed “strategic partnership agreements” and allows for the creation of sub-districts.

“This initiative was sought without any input or support from the city of Green, its mayor, its administration or its City Council,” he said. “Issue No. 10 does not improve or advance the rights and procedures already available to the city.”

Pruneski believes Issue No. 10, if passed, potentially could cause significant harm to the city financially. He explained approval of Issue No. 10 could force Green to redirect revenue for labor, equipment and facilities to run a sub-district.

“The city has a very good working relationship with the Summit County Metropolitan Sewer District and desires to maintain that relationship,” he said. “The individual who circulated the petitions for Issue No. 10 is unfamiliar with that relationship and never sought any information to become familiar or obtain knowledge regarding the relationship between the city and the Summit County Metropolitan Sewer District.”

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