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Failing seawalls concern some residents

MILLERSPORT – Village council members spent more than a hour Tuesday night first listening to a plea from several Terrace Avenue property owners for council to turn over adjacent village owned property to them and then discussing how to respond to the requests.

Bonnie Crane said they had been taking care of the villageowned property since 1985. She added that some of the now unused fire lanes had been abandoned to neighbors years ago but other requests for abandonment had been rejected or ignored.

“All we’re doing is taking care of it for you,” she said. “Why can’t you abandon ours?”

The residents say the failing sea wall along the canal is prompting their requests for the vacant, adjacent properties. “I want it to prevent my seawall from falling in,” Alan Soltis told council members. The seawall, which was installed as a continuous concrete wall by a single owner, has failed in some areas. When one part fails, it puts pressure on the others, Terrace Street property owner and street supervisor Gilbert Arnold said. “The wall should have been cut when ownership was divided.”

Soltis wants the adjacent village owned property so he can repair its failing seawall before it collapses and then lets water get behind his seawall.

Mayor’s assistant Vince Popo said four village-owned lots are involved. Not everyone owns all the way to the canal which is owned by State of Ohio. In some cases, ODNR owns the first 20 feet or so from the canal. In those cases, ODNR is responsible for maintaining the seawall. Property owners that own up to the canal are responsible for maintaining the sea wall.

Popo said the failing seawall was discussed with ODNR officials early this year and plans were made for ODNR to repair the failing sections. Nothing happened until this Monday when an ODNR crew started placing rip rap stone where a section of the wall had failed. That work will be completed later this year when the canal’s water level is drawn down. Once repairs are complete, Popo understands that ODNR intends to turn their canal-side property over to the village, effectively making the village responsible for future repairs.

Arnold believes that Crane’s and Soltis’ fear that failing seawalls on the adjacent villageowned properties will cause their seawalls to collapse is overstated. They just need to make a way for water to drain out from behind the wall. Otherwise, when that water freezes during the winter, it will push out the seawall.

Several of the lots in question have utilities running through them including a high pressure gas line. Arnold said those utility easements must be maintained. None of the property owners seeking abandonment plan to build anything on the lots if they are turned over to them. Each acknowledged the restrictions placed on the properties by the easements.

There was some initial sentiment to turn over the lots since neighbors had received similar lots years ago. Some council members believed abandonment would significantly reduce the village’s liability for future repairs to the seawall.

Ultimately, council members agreed with council member David Sherrer’s suggestion that they wait to see exactly what ODNR is going to do. Council members also agreed to discuss the possible property transfer with the gas company owning the line.

In other business Tuesday night, resident Curt Guthridge asked about the status of the village’s only traffic light.

“We got overwhelming grief,” council member Gary Matheny said of council’s March decision to first bag and then remove the traffic light. A September 2013 ODOT traffic study determined that the light wasn’t warranted. Its future was left up to the village since it isn’t ODOT’s light.

Matheny wasn’t the only council member getting an earful about keeping the light. That prompted them to get the elevated sidewalk installed and see how it worked. “So far it seems to be working pretty well,” Matheny said. Evaluation will continue through at least this boating season to see how vehicles with trailers are affected.

“My concern is the village spending $36,000 for an unneeded light,” Guthridge said. “There is better use for $36,000.”

Arnold said he is still waiting for a firm quote to upgrade the light and add the additional required signal on the Circle K side.

“We have to have two (lights) in each direction,” he explained. “We have to have another one coming out of Circle K. It is illegal now.”

Once the upgrade cost is known, Guthridge suggested placing the issue on the ballot to let voters make the decision.

Arnold thanked Baltimore officials for letting Millersport use their vacuum truck to clear some drains. Arnold also asked for permission to at least seek bids to repave Terrace Street plus Firehouse Alley and Wilson, Fair, Ohio and Cottage avenues. Fiscal officer Susan Ramsey reminded council members that funds for paving are very limited this year. Arnold got the OK to seek bids.

Popo said a last minute push by a number of volunteers got the pool open on time. “The pool looks great,” he added. Attendance has been strong on sunny days. The bad news is that the main pump is failing. Popo expects it will take $20,000 to $30,000 to get it open next year. He is seeking 20 – $1,000 each corporate sponsors to open the pool next year.

Popo reported that the new Veterans’ Memorial is nearly complete after it was destroyed by a wind storm last summer. The handcrafted sculpture looks great, he added. Plans for a rededication ceremony are still up in the air.

Mayor Dean Severance administered the oath of office to assistant fire chief Rob Robertson. Fire Chief Robert Price recommended eliminating the two battalion chief positions and promoting them both to assistant chief. Price said he is driving to South Dakota next week for the final factory inspection of the department’s new engine. It should be delivered to a Washington Courthouse fabricator by the end of the month to outfit its cabinets and lockers.

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