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Norton fails to approve stormwater testing agreement

1/30/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

At the Jan. 27 Norton City Council meeting, Council did not approve an ordinance that would have authorized the mayor to execute and deliver an agreement with Summit County Public Health for certain stormwater management services.

Members voted 4-3 against the ordinance, with Council members Dennis Pierson (Ward 3), Vice President Charlotte Whipkey (at large), Paul Tousley (Ward 4) and President Rick Rodgers (Ward 1) casting “no” votes. Voting in favor were Council members Danny Grether (Ward 2), Scott Pelot (at large) and Dennis McGlone (at large).

According to Mayor Mike Zita, the agreement with Summit County Public Health has been approved in the past. It pertains to the testing, sampling and screening of fallout water in the city and is something that must be in place, he said. If the ordinance had been approved, it would have been in effect through December 2018, he said.

At previous meetings, Council members asked if it were possible to use another organization or company or if Norton had to go through Summit County to do the testing.

According to Zita, if a private company were used, the city would still have to report its findings to the county, which would decide what action to take next. The company would have no authority, he said.

“I have concerns about the limitations in this contract,” Tousley said before he voted, “and they weren’t addressed to my satisfaction in the work session last week, so I won’t be supporting this issue.”

McGlone said, “I think we need to take some time now that this ordinance has failed and look into hiring an outside company.”

Since Council voted down the ordinance, the city is now in noncompliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, and the EPA could step in and take action to test stormwater in Norton, according to Law Director Justin Markey.

Once Council decides who it will contract with, a new ordinance will be brought before members and have to go through the three-reading process before being voted on, according to Council Clerk Karla Richards.

Also during the meeting, Council discussed the possibility of forming the Wolf Creek Watershed Conservancy District (WCWCD) to help reduce and prevent future flooding in Norton, Barberton and Copley. [See “Communities working on flooding problems” in the Jan. 23, 2014, issue, or visit the archives at www.akron.com.]

More than a year-and-a-half ago, officials from the three communities began meeting to work on mitigating flooding problems together.

They ended up hiring a consultant, James Rozelle, of Storm Water Engineering, to work up a plan. So far, each of the three communities has paid $2,500 to have Rozelle do initial work needed to create a conservancy district or join an already existing one, possibly the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD).

Rozelle was present at Council’s work session last week to answer any questions Council and the public might have. However, Rozelle was unable to attend the Jan. 27 Council meeting.

According to Grether, who was provided with information from Rozelle, Norton can opt out of this watershed district if it chooses, but it would become much more complicated once plans have begun to be made and money has been spent.

Grether also addressed assessments that property owners would be charged if this district were created. According to Rozelle, all property owners would be charged an estimated $12 a year. Businesses with large concrete surfaces that add to flooding problems may be charged more, but it was unclear how much, he said. A second assessment would also be charged at a later time, but there is no way of knowing that cost until the plans are made.

“It makes me nervous to approve something when we don’t know, and have no way of knowing, how much it’s going to cost our residents,” Tousely said. “I need to act in the best interests of my residents, and I can’t do that without all the information.”

Grether addressed the MWCD assessments and said that according to Rozelle’s information, there are no properties in Norton that are in that district, so residents are not being assessed.

According to city officials, if the WCWCD were approved, a board would be created that would be made up of members from all the communities who are a part of the district. The board would work together to develop a plan for preventing future flooding, which could include building floodwalls or creating wetlands. Once a plan has been made, it will be taken to a Summit County judge for approval, and final costs would be determined at that time.

“I still have a lot of questions about this proposal,” Tousely said.

Rodgers suggested Rozelle or another representative attend the next work session to answer questions from Council and the community.

In other business:

  • Council heard first readings on four resolutions that would renew the placement of farmland in an agricultural district. The locations include: 5040 Fairland Road, 3856 Greenwich Road, 3296 Clubside Drive and 3456 S. Hametown Road.
  • Council approved a resolution to adopt the Solid Waste Management Plan for ReWorks.

Council next will meet for a work session Feb. 3 and for its regular meeting Feb. 10, both at 7 p.m., in Council Chambers at the Safety-Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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