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Peninsula Council discusses wastewater issues

12/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Peninsula Village Council had a lively discussion on the inevitability of installing sewers in the small community during the Dec. 9th meeting.

While the Council members in attendance voted unanimously on all its actions that evening, the topic of wastewater drew sharp remarks from Councilman Dan Schneider, who questioned the mayor’s authority to set up meetings to discuss the topic with legislators without getting the OK from Council first.

Mayor Doug Mayer told Council he had a meeting planned Dec. 11 with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to discuss the village’s wastewater problems, and he is working on scheduling a meeting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on the subject. Details of the Dec. 11 meeting with Brown were not known at presstime.

Mayer added the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP), a consulting service to help rural communities address drinking water and wastewater treatment needs, will provide free training, which anyone can attend, tomorrow, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. in Council chambers at Peninsula Village Hall.

Following his announcement of these meetings, Schneider accused the mayor of opening up a can of worms.

“[Council] should have been contacted before you ever met with anybody to get approval to do it,” he said. “You don’t have approval to go meet with these people without us.”

Mayer said he is just gathering facts currently on how to handle wastewater problems overall in the village. Eventually, the village will need to comply with the Clean Water Act, which seeks to halt illicit discharge into state streams, he said.

“All I’m trying to figure out is who is going to be our aid and who isn’t going be our aid,” said Mayer.

No agreements are being made at this point, he added. Wastewater issues in the village are nothing new, Mayer added.

“The EPA [Ohio Environmental Protection Agency] has been sending letters to us all along and, yes, we have completely ignored them,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to do anybody any good to stick their head back in the sand,” said out-going Council member Charlie Moyer. “We should be looking at ways of positively addressing this.”

“We aren’t under any orders to do anything from anybody” as a municipality, explained outgoing Council member Mary Booth. “Certain private properties are under orders to do something. That’s all that’s going on right now.”

Booth added that during her time on Council, she was on a committee that looked at installing sewers in the village, which was fairly unpopular among residents.

According to village officials, Woodridge Intermediate School was cited recently by the Ohio EPA for issues with its septic system. The school’s system has not been upgraded since 1963, according to village officials. The Winking Lizard also had a “heavy” letter sent to them from the EPA recently, said Mayer.

Two other notices of violation from the EPA have gone to currently unoccupied business properties in the village recently as well, Mayer said.

If the EPA were to mandate that sewers be installed in the community to resolve issues of illicit discharge, which it has not done, the village would likely need more than $20 million to complete the project, said Mayer.

“All I’m trying to do right now is put everything in order to, when it comes time, we can do it correctly,” said Mayer. “I’ve never had to put a sewer system in a community before, and there’s a lot to it.”

In a follow-up discussion, Mayer said, “The solution in my mind is Peninsula has to protect its businesses and residents, downtown and multiuse district, and to do that, we have to put in a system for them.”

However, he hopes the village will find a “big brother” to help it get sewage transported elsewhere.

“It’s a very expensive thing [the EPA] is asking everybody to do,” he said.

Near the end of the meeting, Booth brought the discussion back to the issue, suggesting Council respond to the EPA on behalf of businesses in the village receiving letters from the agency. She agreed to draft a letter stating the village is investigating its options in dealing with wastewater discharge.

Also at the meeting, Council approved a number of items, including:

  • an ordinance changing the income tax rate from 1 percent to 2 percent, as voters approved the increase at the polls Nov. 5;
  • to advertise for the position of village solicitor, as the current contract expires Jan. 31;
  • an amendment to a codified ordinance specifying posting places for public notices, replacing Woodridge Intermediate School with the Valley Fire District Station;
  • to pay a police officer for 120 hours of unused vacation time;
  • to seek bids for a police vehicle lease for next year;
  • a temporary budget for 2014;
  • to pay Christmas bonuses to village employees who have worked more than 400 hours;
  • an ordinance establishing a capital improvement fund and allocating one-quarter of the 2 percent income tax; and
  • an amendment to Section 139 of the village’s codified ordinances to clean up items related to auxiliary police officers.

At the meeting’s close, the mayor thanked out-going Council members Doug Anderson, Booth and Moyer for their service to the village.

Council’s next meeting is set for Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor Council room of Peninsula Village Hall, located at the corner of state Route 303 and Akron-Peninsula Road.

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