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Condo community might escape township after all

JACKSONTOWN – Prospects looked grim for a Heath condominium community’s request to be completely separated from Licking Township following an expedited annexation into the City of Heath.

But Monday night, Licking Township Trustee President Joe Hart said the community might be able to separate from the township after all.

Previously, Bill Settles, president of the River Oaks Homeowners Association, told Licking Township Trustees that River Oaks continues to pay taxes to Licking Township even though it receives none of its services.

The Villages of River Oaks is an Epcon Lifestyles condominium community in the City of Heath, which also remains in Licking Township following annexation to Heath. So the community pays taxes to both Licking Township and Heath, while Settles said River Oaks receives all its utility and emergency services from Heath or other sources outside of Licking Township. “The time has come to be released to Heath,” he said, adding that the River Oaks residents would have nothing to gain by supporting township levies.

Licking County Auditor’s Office personnel told The Beacon that these were Expedited II annexations from Licking Township to Heath City. In the case of Expedited II annexations, parcels are forever simultaneously part of the city and the township, subject to the taxing authority of both the city and the township, and cannot be conformed.

Joe Hart said the auditor’s office gave him a similar explanation, but the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office told him to forget about River Oaks being “conformed,” and to work out an annexation agreement with the City of Heath. As long as the township initiates an annexation agreement and Heath agrees to it, then River Oaks could completely separate from the township. Hart said the prosecutor’s office would write up the language for the annexation agreement.

Hart said his research found several other properties that were also annexed to Heath under an Expedited II agreement. “If we’re going to do this for River Oaks, we should do it for the other parcels and clean this up,” he said.

Hart said if Heath agrees to the proposal, then Licking Township would lose about $9,300 in tax revenue from the properties; however, he said quite a few people live on those properties and would likely vote against township levies if their separation request is denied. “I can see those people’s point of view,” Hart said. He said River Oaks residents would gain $67.58 per year, per $100,000 valuation of their homes if River Oaks separates from Licking Township.

Hart said he would look into only receiving half of the taxes for this year since we’re already almost halfway through 2015, but he didn’t think the Auditor’s Office did “halvesies” on tax collections for individual years. If that’s the case, Licking Township would collect the year’s taxes from the Heath properties, “Then that’s the last of the taxes we would receive,” Hart said. All three trustees agreed to move forward with reaching an annexation agreement with the City of Heath and completely releasing River Oaks and other properties from Licking Township.

In other township news:

• LCATS Senior Transportation Planner Matt Hill attended Monday night’s meeting to explain a new way to think about paving and road maintenance. He said repairing the roads that are in the worst condition first is not necessarily the most efficient method to maintain roads. He explained that pavement degrades very slowly at first, but about 75 percent through its life cycle, pavement will suddenly deteriorate quickly. Once roads have reached the point of decay, they are very expensive to repair; however, it is far less expensive to maintain roads when they are still in good shape. “It works in the exact same way as if you were redoing your house,” he said. “If you do maintenance on a roads every two to three years, it will cost significantly less.” Hill said for every $1 spent on preventive maintenance, the township would save $6 to $7 on road repair. “You’d never need a major rehab with a really aggressive maintenance schedule,” he said.

Hill said it takes roughly six or seven years to fully implement his plan and repair all the old damaged roads while continuing to maintain the roads that are in good shape. Eventually, all the township roads will be in good shape and the maintenance program will begin to pay for itself. “In about 10 years, this starts paying you money,” Hill said. “Maintain your best roadways first so they don’t decay. This is a whole new concept to a lot of people.”

Hill said ODOT uses a similar system and the City of Newark and the Village of Johnstown are implementing this method. “It works in real life,” he said. Hill said chip and seal and asphalt are subject to a six percent cost of inflation and road repairs will continue to become more and more expensive.

Hart said the township is doing plenty of preventive maintenance, and using its Durapatcher more often. He said he wasn’t sure how Hill’s method would help the township roads in need of immediate repair.

Hill said adopting the new method would be tough at first, and would take a while. “Take the best eight miles of roadway and see how long you can keep it nice,” he said. Of course, work would continue on damaged roads. “The better the roads are, the cheaper they are to repair,” Hill said.

• Trustees approved a one-time salary adjustment for Licking Township Fire Company Chief Mike Wilson for $4,000 in lieu of him transferring to Licking Township’s health insurance. Wilson decided to stay on his own policy following insurance regulation changes.

“We ended up getting a total of $70,000,” said Buckeye Lake Village Council President Jeryne Peterson. She said the health department is “very strict” with the use of the grant funding and will be closely involved with the village to ensure the money is used for what it is intended and that the work is completed by September. “I feel better about it because it is being overseen,” Peterson said.

Peterson said council member Kitty Zwissler worked especially closely with the health department and government personnel to ensure the village received the grant funding. “Kitty worked very hard to get this thing done,” Peterson said. “It had to be something that would benefit everybody in the village.”

Peterson said the county’s oversight will stop the village from getting “off on a tangent,” and allowing anything to interfere with completing the work.

Current CHC grantees were invited to apply for additional funding to complement 2015 grant objectives, with the stipulation that funding had to be spent in 2015. The Licking County CHC program was already working with the Village of Buckeye Lake to make improvements at Ryan Braden Park but with a much smaller budget than ideal.

“When we were informed of the availability of additional funds, the work in Buckeye Lake seemed like a perfect fit,” said Nicole Smith, Licking County Health Department CHC Coordinator. “This is a great opportunity to complete even more needed improvements at the park. The money will also help the village set up a community garden for residents to grow their own foods.”

“We’ll have people working all over the place,” Peterson said, adding that the village could use plenty of volunteers to help with the grant projects.

Smith said the Buckeye Lake Village Council and Mayor Clay Carroll have generated all of the ideas for this project. “They are vested in making these improvements for the residents of Buckeye Lake,” she said.

“The village should be really proud of this,” Peterson said.

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