2008-03-01 / News

Buckeye Lake hopes to sign water contract March 10

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE- Buckeye Lake Council may approve a public water contract with Millersport during its March 10 meeting as anticipation-and tensions grow.

Monday night, Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster said Ohio Rural Community Assistance Partnership Field Agent Coordinator John Rouch and M•E Companies Vice President Kevin Wood will attend the March 10 village council meeting, in the hope that council will review and approve a public water contract with the Village of Millersport.

Foster said both villages' attorneys are reviewing the contract, and thus far the only significant change is the contract would be for 20 years, period. Previously, it was a 30-year contract with a minimum of 15 years, but the Ohio Revised Code limits such contracts to 20 years. Foster said he's been meeting with Ohio EPA officials and the process of developing an agreement between Buckeye Lake and Millersport is progressing.

"We're moving ahead quite nicely," said Foster.

Council member and former Buckeye Lake mayor Jim Bartoe said residents are asking him exactly how much public water would cost them per month. If the contract is approved, Millersport would charge Buckeye Lake $3.15 per 1,000 gallons. Bartoe said there would be administrative and maintenance costs on top of that for Buckeye Lake customers.

Foster said those costs would apply to any source of public water, and partnering with Millersport would cost far less than building a village operated water plant. He said it's impossible to arrive at an exact figure right now because it's not known how many customers would tie onto the system and there are many funding details to manage. Foster told Bartoe he's had the same access to information as the rest of council and wondered why he was asking those questions now. He hoped Bartoe isn't trying to undermine the process.

"We're dead in the water if council doesn't approve this," said Foster. "That would be a tragedy for Buckeye Lake." He said the village has worked for many months to achieve the best deal possible for Buckeye Lake residents. The village qualifies for plenty of low interest funding and grants because of its general low income status. But, he said, the village couldn't acquire any finding at all until it "had its (financial) house in order," which only happened recently. Foster reminded Bartoe that the village just paid an old loan for past water studies which was accrued under Bartoe's administration.

Bartoe said he has no objections to partnering with Millersport, but people are asking him questions.

Director of Development Valerie Hans said that assuming the contract is approved, the more residents and businesses that tie onto a village water system, the lower the bills will be for everyone. The village is doing everything it can, she said, to ensure the costs of tying onto the water system when it's installed are far lower than waiting until later. Assuming the contract is approved March 10, the village will hold an informational meeting in May to explain to residents what they can expect when the work begins.

In other council news:

• Council member Shelly Small said East Street's speed limit should be reduced to 20 miles per hour from its current 35 mile per hour speed limit. It was 20 miles per hour at one time, she said, but the speed limit was raised. Small said people are driving recklessly on East Street and she's worried children waiting at its bus stop will be run over. She suggested placing a speed limit counter on the street, which would inform drivers of their speed as they approach the counter. Tuesday, Small said, "I don't believe council is taking this seriously--they would if they had children at that stop-the way some of them laughed when I brought up the idea of the speed limit counter. This is very serious to me and other parents in that area."

• Buckeye Lake Planning Commission Chair Karen Cookston replied publicly to a Beacon Letter to the Editor by former council member Peggy Wells, who, in her letter, said she believes Cookston's purchase of two lots in Cranberry Bay was in conflictwith Cookston's position as chair of the planning commission. Cookston, who said the letter was inaccurate and presented incomplete information, read a lengthy prepared statement to council. Within it, she made the following points:

*Wells and a handful of homeowners are in a lawsuit with the Cranberry Bay Homeowners Association.

*Wells called the trustees of the CBHA at 10:45 Saturday night just 24 hours after the posting of Cookston's purchases of the land to see if the trustees knew about the purchase. They told her that they had been fully informed. The next day Wells approached the property owners.

*Cookston said both of the lots she purchased have houses on them and were being leased from Hunts Landing LLC. One house, owned by the Grahms, is long vacant and "uninhabitable by humans." The other is in "great disrepair." Both were delinquent in their leases and regularly late on property taxes, she claimed. Cookston said both homeowners had 11 years to buy land and as many notices.

*The lots for sale were known to the CBHA in several meetings.

*In referral to "free" land, Cookston said she paid $23,000 for two lots, which is in line with other purchases on the street. She said Wells purchased 10 lots from the Bounds family for $75,000 and technically picked up a vacated street for free. "Who got a better deal?" asked Cookston.

*Cookston said the trustees and the president of the CBHA were fully aware of her land transactions. "While I am a public officialthat does not take away my personal rights and while I am not required to announce all of my personal transactions, I have made my land transactions public information. While (Wells) was a council member, did she make it part of the minutes that she purchased 10 lots and got a street for free? It appears that by (Wells) definition, anyone that owns property and cares about this community has a conflict of interest if they are a public official."

Cookston presented paperwork to the council to back up her points. Council member Drew Bourne asked council give Cookston an officialvote of confidence. Council unanimously did so, although council members Jeryne Peterson and Donna Thompson were absent.

"I appreciate the time you've taken to set the facts straight," said Foster. "It's obvious to me there's been no wrong doing on your part."

"I'm tired of taking my time for these unconscionable letters," said Council President Charlene Hayden. "I'm hoping we can put this to rest."

• Bourne mentioned that a massive North Shore condominium's rooflineis extending into a neighboring parcel.

Cookston said the village "has issues" with the waterfront properties because they are so close together. She said the building's original diagram showed that it was within compliance. The builder found the structure needed a flowbox to keep rain run-off from splashing into a neighboring property. The change required a variance, which was granted.

Foster said the building also received a variance to construct a ramp one side of the structure and a set of stairs on the other under the condition they are built from a non-combustible material like steel or concrete and they are attached to the structure.

"That building has taught us a lot of lessons," said Cookston.

Foster added that the village's zoning has many issues and the entire zoning code is being updated.

• The village is looking for fiveto seven volunteers to serve on a Buckeye Lake Tree Committee. The committee, chaired by Annetta Macedonia, will look at ways to improve, protect, and increase the trees within the village. The committee will also review requirements for the village to become a "Tree City USA." Steve Nix, of About. com, wrote that becoming a Tree City USA has several advantages. The program helps many communities develop an organized approach to city tree management, it helps the community locate professionals to educate city managers about urban tree care, and it helps communities avoid problems associated with poorly managed and aging trees.

According to an ODNR release, Tree City USA communities must meet a list of criteria, including establishing a tree board or department to carry out a tree care program; enacting and enforcing a community tree ordinance to provide direction; funding the community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and celebrating Arbor Day with a community ceremony-including planting a few trees-and a mayoral proclamation.

Earlier in February, the planning commission met with ODNR Regional Urban Forester Lisa Bowers at the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club, where they discussed options for a village comprehensive tree masterplan and various ordinances to protect village trees.

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