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Buckeye Lake Council approves storm water utility

BUCKEYE LAKE – It’ll be roughly a year before any money is collected, but Buckeye Lake Village Council members agreed to create a storm water utility Monday night, despite the urgings of a council member-elect to wait.

A storm water utility is a “stand-alone” service unit within the local government that generates revenues through fees for service. A storm water utility is responsible for funding the operation, construction and maintenance of storm water management devices, for storm water system planning, and management. It generates revenue through user fees, which go into a specific fund specifically for storm water services.

“It is a user fee; it is not a tax,” Jobes Henderson & Associates President Jim Roberts told council previously. He said a storm water utility would generate some “much needed” funding to alleviate storm water drainage problems, which happen villagewide, and it would provide relief to the general fund, which currently pays for storm water drainage maintenance. Mayor Rick Baker has estimated the utility will cost village residents $3 to $4 per month.

Up to now, the street department and general fund have funded storm water issues, said council president Charlene Hayden. “We have numerous storm water issues in the village that need attention,” she said. “The scope of the work necessary to remedy these issues can no longer be funded as in the past because that money is needed for other necessities. It will take the village the majority of this year to iron out all the things associated with starting a storm water utility, such as mandatory public meetings, making decisions as to how residents will pay for the utility in a fair and equitable manner, and determining how the money will be collected.”

Hayden said the utility will cost each resident very little, yet will provide the village enough money to match potential grant requirements. “That way we invest the match money and get a greater amount of work for a small investment,” she said. “The residents then get more ‘bang for their buck,’ so to speak. We can do small projects as we get the utility money and eventually we will have a complete system.”

Hayden said creating an entire storm water system at once would be cost prohibitive. “We should get quite a bit of help in grant money and have a small village investment for a whole system as compared to funding the whole system at once with a loan,” she said. In addition, if the Ohio EPA were to impose mandates, the village may be ineligible for grant money. “I know one of the council members talked down the importance of adhering to EPA’s rules, but I think we could be in trouble pretty quickly if we do not comply, especially since EPA has already talked with (former Public Works Director Vaughn Klingler).”

Council member-elect Peggy Wells asked council members Monday night to table approval of the ordinance because of several “specific concerns” she had with its wording. She also wanted to be certain there would be public meetings about the storm water utility before village residents were charged for it. “I do appreciate that you gave it three (public) readings,” she said, but public meetings are essential.

Council member Jeryne Peterson said the storm water utility ordinance was copied another municipality and the village solicitor agreed it was basically in “perfect order.”

Council member and mayor-elect Clay Carroll agreed some aspects of the ordinance needed to be tweaked. “We’re a long way from this going into motion,” he said. Passing the ordinance Monday night would not stop changes to it during the next year or public meetings. “It’s a year away,” said Carroll, from collecting any money.

“We can amend this as it goes,” said council member Barry Herron. “I’m not in agreement with the way we are funding it, honestly.” But, he agreed the ordinance should be approved.

“If we do not take action here, we will be at the mercy of the EPA and we will be fined,” said Hayden.

“This at least looks like we’re being proactive,” said Peterson.

Wells said Wednesday that the problems with the legislation are more than a few typos. “There are five good issues in there,” she said, adding that it contradicts current practices in the water department. “I’m disappointed that council passed it knowing that it needs amendment. I’m talking about real issues.”

In other council news:

*Clerk of Council Valerie Hans notified council member-elect Ken Owens that he is ineligible to serve on council. Hans said Kenneth Owens is ineligible because he registered to vote on August 6, 2013, which is less than a full year before he ran for office. The Village of Buckeye Lake Charter states any resident who has been a qualified elector of the village for at least one continuous year prior to the election for member of council shall be eligible to hold the office of council member. All council members shall be residents of the village during their entire term of office.

“The last election in which Mr. Owens voted was the general election in 2000. After the first of the year, the seat he should have filled will be open,” said Hayden. “Council will then fill that seat as they would any other vacancy.” She said Hans will advertise a request for applications and council will choose a new member. Anyone wishing to be on council can file an application with the Village Office.

• Council approved new water rates for 2014 based on a price increase from the Village of Millersport, which supplies bulk water to Buckeye Lake’s water distribution system. Next year, Buckeye Lake water customers will pay $29.91 per month basic rate for the first 2,000 gallons of water. Each additional 1,000 gallons will cost $5.51. Seasonal off users will pay a flat rate of $15 per month.

Herron said this is the second time Millersport has increased its rates since Buckeye Lake tied into its water system. Buckeye Lake did not increase its rates following Millersport’s first increase. “We basically ate it,” he said. “We need to do it this time.”

Council’s meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 23, has been cancelled.

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