BUCKEYE LAKE – 2017 was a mixed year for the Buckeye Lake area – some good and some not so good.
While it certainly wasn’t the biggest story of the year, The Beacon had to face financial reality in late January and suspend print production. After nearly 22 years in print, The Beacon is now appearing exclusively on our longtime website – www.buckeyelakebeacon.net.
A broken contracted home delivery system lead the list of culprits. We know our contractor’s inability to consistently deliver The Beacon in our delivery area frustrated many readers and advertisers. Some lost patience with the continued missed or late deliveries. In addition, many of our advertisers have been hurt by the loss of two lake recreation seasons and the uncertainty about the future.
The Beacon’s future is still unsettled. While many readers have found their way to www.buckeyelakebeacon.net for their Buckeye Lake area news, many advertisers have not followed, jeopardizing our future.
Phase II work starts late & proceeds slowly
Phase I – the construction of the stability berm and installation of the 4.1 mile long, two foot wide and 40-some foot deep seepage barrier was completed in late May 2016. ODNR officials said the project was a year ahead of schedule. If that was the case, it has all been lost due to Phase II’s delayed start and its slow progress.
ODNR’s contract with ASI for Phase II called for four soil mixing machines to built the buttress wall. At some point – most likely due to an effort to save money – ODNR, ASI and DeWind agreed to substitute one machine supposedly able to construct the buttress wall in one pass.
That decision to use just one “monster” machine may have been responsible for the 90-day delay in starting wall construction – late June start versus the scheduled March start. The sale of ASI Constructors’ assets in April to Shaft Drillers International of Mount Morris, PA, may have contributed to the delayed start-up.
The one-pass experiment failed, wasting almost 90 days. The trencher frequently broke down and its cutter arm got stuck in the trench for some four days in August. That prompted a cutter head reconfiguration, reducing its width from 10 feet to a little over three feet. DeWind brought in a smaller trencher in late September. Even with two trenchers, progress appeared erratic through October. Up-time improved considerably during November and seems to have continued into December.
According to ODNR on December 11, 3,199 linear feet of the buttress wall has been installed. That’s 14.8 percent of the total. Some of that work was done in one pass with the rest in three passes. With the change to three-pass construction, 55,347 linear feet still have to be installed. ODNR reports that 431 linear feet has had two passes constructed and 862 linear feet have one pass completed. That works out to another 1,742 feet of buttress wall for a grand total of 4,941 linear feet of buttress wall. That’s 22.8 percent of the total needed. ODNR’s Phase II contract with ASI lists January 10, 2018, as the date the buttress wall is to be completed. Given the progress to date, buttress wall construction is likely to continue until late June at the best.
Trustees ask ODNR to protect residents’ health
In December 2016, the Boards of Township Trustees for Walnut Township (Fairfield County) and Union Township (Licking County) asked ODNR Director James Zehringer in a joint letter to address “ threats to human health that occurred during the Phase 1 construction activities at the Buckeye Lake Dam.” The letter was prompted by the April 30, 2016, Portland cement release that dumped more than a ton of cement on the nearby Rosebraugh Circle neighborhood, routine cement releases as the silos were filled and large clouds of fugitive dust generated by construction traffic on the berm that drifted onto nearby homes and vehicles.
ODNR ignored the request for months and ultimately declined to take the specific steps trustees recommended. However, ODNR’s soil-mixing contractor for Phase II is not using cement storage silos. Phase II work didn’t start until June and proceeded so sporadically through the summer and fall that it couldn’t be determined whether the one small water truck provided in Phase II contract would be sufficient to control fugitive dust.
BLASST cancelled for safety reasons
Plans to resume the community funded annual BLASST 4th of July fireworks show after a one-year hiatus ran into cold, hard reality after Memorial Day weekend. BLASST organizers announced in mid-May that ODNR had approved its permit application and set the show for July 3. Memorial Day weekend parking at both the North Shore and Lieb’s Island was quickly overwhelmed by boaters anxious to get back on Buckeye Lake after two years. The severely limited parking lead to many boaters being turned away, illegal parking that in some cases blocked access to key facilities, traffic tie-ups at both ramps and on Lieb’s Island and hot tempers.
With most park property off limits due to the dam reconstruction project or its use as dredged material relocation areas, the local, county and state first responders and law enforcement officials at a June safety meeting unanimously agreed that resuming BLASST this year would represent an unreasonable risk to public safety.
Charrette designs new future for Buckeye Lake
Most Buckeye Lake area residents had never heard of a “charrette” until May. It’s “a public meeting or workshop devoted to a concerted effort to solve a problem or plan the design of something.” Hundreds of Buckeye Lake residents and property owners participated in the week-long “charrette” organized by Buckeye Lake 2030.
DPZ of Miami, Florida, has developed “The Charrette” to organize the planning process. Six designers listen to the presentations, consult individually with participants and draw designs based on that input. The designs are shared publicly and revised and expanded based on that feedback and additional design work. Specific design suggestions were developed for the four focus areas – Downtown Millersport and along the canal; Fairfield Beach with an emphasis on public recreation; Thornport; and the Ohio 79 corridor in Buckeye Lake Village, from I-70 to the Yacht Club’s Eastport boat yard.
Lady Lancers repeat as Division II state softball champions
In the last three seasons, the Lady Lancers have won two state championships and lost the third by one point in the state final. They have amassed a 93-3 record in those three years.
In the 2017 state semi-final, the # 1 ranked Lancers took on # 9 ranked and 22-4 Plain City Jonathan Alder. Alder scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Lakewood exploded in the third inning with 12 batters, scoring 7 runs for a 7-1 lead. Lakewood moved to the state final with a 14-6 victory.
Pitching dominated Saturday night’s final with #4 ranked and 24-2 Akron Archbishop Hoban. Lancer ace Courtney Vierstra struck out seven and held the Knights to four hits for a 2-1 Lakewood win.
Lakewood softball head coach Criss Nadolson waited until near the end of the Lancers’ victory rally in the Kroger Parking lot to discuss his future. Lakewood Athletic Director Bo Hanson described how Nadolson took charge of the softball program 16 years ago. Hanson was an assistant for the first 10 years. Sixteen years ago, the field didn’t have a scoreboard and storm water run-off had cut two ditches through the field.
Criss and a hardy band of volunteers with hard work, donations and help from the athletic boosters built a new field, adding in-door batting cages and pitching machines. Hansen said the field will now be known as the Criss Nadolson Softball Complex.
Nadolson said his “heart and soul” was in this season. “I thought it might be my last year, but I would leave no stone unturned.” He later confirmed his retirement, leaving Lakewood with a stunning 385-67 record, five state championships (2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017), two state runner-ups (2002 and 2015) and seven trips to the state semifinals.
ODNR bans water discharges through or over the dam
A March 3, 2017, letter to dam front property owners from Michael D. Bailey, Chief of the Division of Parks and Water Craft, banned water discharges through or over the dam. Bailey’s letter stated, “We will finish these risk reduction measures by permanently capping unauthorized water drainage conduits so that they no longer discharge water through or over state property.”
The notice also affected three collection/pump stations:
• West Bank Homeowners Association’s pump protecting about 40 homes and the Licking County Water and Wastewater’s West Bank lift station:
• A pump protecting the Ballard Lane portion of the West Bank; and
• A Licking Fairfield Corporation pump protecting 200 acres of prime farmland and Millersport Road.
Bailey originally said capping drainage conduits would begin July but as protests grew it was informally pushed back to October. Work began in October to cap home drainage systems. The three collection systems continue to discharge into the lake as local and county officials are still scrambling to find new outlets for the water.
Lakewood plans new elementary school
Plans for a new Pre-K to 5 school to replace the 100+ yearold Hebron Elementary School and the two-building Jackson Intermediate School were presented at the seventh elementary school planning meeting in late June. The new school would be located on the Lakewood campus behind the Lakewood Middle School. It would require the district to purchase 10.75 acres of farmland to the west. The school’s basic design is a 158,000 square foot, single story that could accommodate the district’s “right now” student population. There was considerable discussion about the cost benefits of a two-story design – smaller foundation and roof. Teachers, principals and most parents strongly favored the one-story design, primarily for safety reasons. The cost of the new school was estimated at $35,134,460. The total estimated cost is $35,955,088 which inclueds additional access drives at $84,963; new school parking lot at $391,959; demolition of Jackson A at $21,265; and purchasing the additional acreage at $322,440.
A separate financial taskforce met up to its September presentation to the school board, discussing how to pay for the new school and an additional $10 million in district-wide improvements. Options included a bond levy, an income tax on earned income and a combination of both. The taskforce ultimately recommended a bond levy to the school board, but the final decision will be made by the new board in 2018. The district determined it could raise $7.9 million internally.
July rains close I-70 & lake level exceeds normal summer pool
Approximately 10 inches of rain fell in the small Buckeye Lake watershed from mid-afternoon Monday, July 10 through Thursday, July 14. The lake level came within an inch or so of inundating the stability berm in several areas. The construction vehicle causeway in front of the Seller’s Point Spillway was completely covered with water Friday morning and the lake was high enough for water to flow over the spillway structure there. The causeway reemerged as the lake level declined over the weekend.
ODNR opened the underdrain at Seller’s Point on Monday, July 10, and opended the AMIL drain on Tuesday. Both drains were kept open for well over a week. Thursday afternoon’s non-stop rain caused flash flooding in Millersport, some very localized areas in Buckeye Lake Village and serious levels in Hebron, particularly in the Greenbriar mobile home community just east of Ohio 79. Power was turned off there and rescue crews evacuated some residents in boats. By Friday morning, the flash flood waters had largely receded including in Greenbriar Estates with flooding now being caused by the South Fork of the Licking River overflowing its banks.
Just after 11 a.m. Friday, ODOT shut down both eastbound lanes on I-70 and did the same to the westbound lanes in a few hours. Flood waters from the South Fork last closed I-70 twice during 2008. The completion of ODNR’s long delayed channel widening project on approximately 3.3 miles of the South Fork in 2013 has provided enough holding capacity to keep I-70 open until July 15.
Lake level reaches interim summer pool early
ODNR installed the stop logs at the AMIL spillway in Buckeye Lake Village as scheduled on March 1. Thanks to a major boost from Mother Nature, the lake level was slightly over half the way to the interim summer pool when the outflow was stopped.
The lake was at the interim summer pool of 890.5 for the Memorial Day weekend which is considered the unofficial start of summer. Trailer boaters jammed both launch areas overwhelming the limited parking. Thanks to heavy rains July 10 -14, the lake remained at or above the interim summer pool into mid-August. By September 18, it was almost two inches below the interim summer pool. Pleas to push back ODNR’s plan to remove the stop logs on October 1 to the past practice of Nov.1 to 15, were rejected.
When ODNR removed the stop logs on October 11, the lake level was three inches below the interim summer pool. It had dropped another 12 inches by October 31.
Licking Township starts construction of a new fire station
Licking Township Trustees recently unanimously awarded a $2,155,000 contract to Robertson Construction of Heath to build a new seven-bay fire station for the Licking Township Fire Company in September. The funds for the new station will come from estate taxes including a three million dollar windfall that trustees have been holding for some time. No receipts from the township’s fire/ EMS levies will be used. The new station will replace the fire company’s Station 3 on Ohio 13 just north of ODOT’s District 5 headquarters. The current Station 1 which sits on the hill behind Station 3 will be used to store the township’s road equipment. It is scheduled to be complete July 20, 2018.
In November 2015, voters approved an additional three mill levy to provide 24/7 on-station staffing by a 886-598 vote. The new tax was first assessed in 2016 and collection started this year. The fire company had a total of 685 runs in 2002 when paid parttimers were first hired. In recent years, runs have averaged about 1,100 a year. This year the company set both monthly and daily run records – 118 in July and 12 runs on July 2.
Baltimore closes police gun range
Neighbors of the police department’s gun range near the village’s wastewater treatment plant on the west side of Baltimore first raised concerns about safety in December 2016. Neighbors shared photos of bullet holes in trees that are well above the rifle range’s backstop and multiple bullet holes in the plastic barrels that line the range. One was a photo of a pole barn and a bullet home and the recovered slug. Village officials contended that trespassers were responsible for the wayward bullets.
The issue flared up again in September when the village sought a temporary restraining order after a neighbor tried to limit access to just the wastewater treatment plan. The conflict escalated when Baltimore Mayor Brad Nicodemus said the neighbor had made threats to protect his property with a gun if police tried to continue using the range. Neighbors were also upset that firing at the range resumed after the court rejected their bid to cut off access to the range. Neighbors packed the Sept. 25 council meeting. Council member Jim Hochradel said it was time to discuss the issue on the floor. After considerable discussion, council members appointed a special committee to make a recommendation to council. That committee met once with Police Chief Michael Tussey recommending near the end of the meeting to close the village’s controversial gun range.
Council members made the closing official October 9 with a 5-1 vote to permanently close the range. Council member Mike Hamilton was the only dissenter. Council members asked the Service Committee to consider the closure options. The consensus October 9, based on neighbor Rusty Mock’s consultations with several Ohio EPA officials and Police Chief Michael Tussey’s conversations with Ohio EPA, was to leave it as is. Mock explained that screening out the lead bullets will put lead in the air and possibly the nearby creek which is much more harmful to health than leaving it buried in the soil bank.
Challengers sweep Lakewood Board race
There will be three new faces on the Lakewood School Board in January. Incumbent Trisha Good didn’t seek reelection. Voters rejected Board President Judy White’s bid for a fourth term and Tim Phillips’ bid for a second full term.
Four of the five challengers out polled White and Phillips. They were Tara Houdeshell, Jonathan Lynch, Bill Pollard and Chelsea Francis with 1,512, 1,305, 1,007 and 943 votes respectively. Phillips was fifth with 894, White sixth with 863 and challenger Doyle Pertuset was last with 534 votes. Turn-out was a respectable 33.7 percent.
Lakewood voters also renewed a five year, 4.9 mill emergency levy on the first try by a 1,770 to 1,542 vote. The levy represents about 10 percent of the district’s revenue, bringing in $2,353,259 per year.
Wells upsets incumbent in Buckeye Lake Village Mayor’s race
Two-term council member Peggy A. Wells gave up her council seat to challenge one-term incumbent Mayor Clay Carroll. Wells staked her campaign on “Wells for a Better Buckeye Lake,” while Carroll asked to be re-elected mayor. Wells presented detailed plans on how to make Buckeye Lake better, dropping off five to six pages outlining her plans at nearly 875 homes. She garnered 62 percent of the vote to become the village’s first female mayor.
Three candidates sought three Buckeye Lake council seats. Firsttime candidate John Geiger led the field with 247 votes, followed by incumbent council president Kitty Zwissler with 216, and first-time candidate William French with 199.
Buckeye Lake voters overwhelmingly renewed the village’s five mill, five-year fire levy by a 322-121 tally. Voters also approved an additional five mill, five-year levy for streets and general operations by a 245 to 197 margin.
Mason returns to Hebron Village Council
Former Mayor Clifford Mason led a six candidate field for four open council seats with 280 votes. Incumbents Scott Walters, Jim Friend and Annelle Porter were reelected with 261, 232 and 230 votes respectiviely. Challenger Paige Seymour was fifth with 216 votes and incumbent Tom Marietta came in last with 202 votes.
Liberty Union-Thurston School District voters turn down new levy twice
The district is asked voters in May and again in November to approve an additional 3.5 mill permanent improvements levy for five years.. The new tax would raise approximately $648,000 a year, which would initially be used to replace the track and upgrade the football stadium. Voters rejected the new levy by a 2:1 margin in May and it didn’t fare much better in November when voters again rejected it by a 1,352 to 782 vote.
Lakewood completes new stadium with synthetic turf
More than a thousand residents, parents and students turned out August 21 to help dedicate the new Lakewood Lancers Stadium and Calhoun Memorial Field.
Lakewood Board of Education members awarded the last major contract for the Lancer Stadium project at a special meeting on February 23, by a 4-1 vote, with board member Steve Thorp the only dissenter. The contract with Charter Hill Construction of Canal Winchester is for sitework, the concessions stand and “ancillary work.” It was the only bid received. The bid was reviewed and changes totaling $111,781 were approved, reducing the cost to $1,205,159.70. Board members approved a not-to-exceed contract of $1,289,520 which includes a seven percent contingency.
The district’s share of the stadium cost increased to $2,841,592 which is 42 percent above the estimated $2 million cost when board members narrowly approved the lease purchase financing last October. The contracts total also exceeds the $2.5 million that board members agreed in January to borrow for 10 years at a 2.87 percent interest rate.
Millersport plans to build spec home on vacant lot
Village officials are moving ahead with their plans to attract more families with children to the aging village. After determining there were no legal obstacles to their plan, the village is planning to build a single-family home next spring on a vacant, village-owned lot on Broad Street.
Zoning Administrator Bill Simpson, who is a retired home builder, will be providing technical assistance for the project. The in-fill project, on the 55’ x 120’ Broad Street lot, will be a 45’ wide, two-story home with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths with approximately 1,500 square feet. “We’re planning on starting as soon as we can this spring,” he told council members.
Millersport breaks ground for new park
Millersport officials held a ground-breaking ceremony Oct. 30, at the old Sohio station site on Lancaster Street at Gift Street. The new 0.4 acre park will feature a gazebo, benches, picnic tables and extensive landscaping. Millersport must spend $187,500 to get the full benefit of a $125,000 state grant. The new sidewalks and gazebo were in place by the end of November. The benches, picnic tables and landscaping will be installed in 2018.
Ohio EPA revises ODNR’s mitigation plan
Ohio EPA issued a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for ODNR’s Buckeye Lake Dam Rehabilitation project on November 13. The certification means the Ohio EPA Director has “determined that a lowering of water quality in the Licking watershed… is necessary.” The Section 401 certification is required before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can issue a Section 404 permit to allow fill to be placed in Buckeye Lake. Of course, most of the fill has already been placed in Buckeye Lake with the construction of the stability berm that began about two years ago.
Eight people testified at the June 26 public hearing and Ohio EPA received 12 written sets of comments through July 3 public comment period, including from Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow, Union Township Trustees and Walnut Township Trustees.
Many comments expressed concern that ODNR’s proposed fish habitat that will be used for mitigation is being placed in areas that will be silted over very quickly, that is near feeder canals that are main sources of sedimentation coming into the lake. Commenters were also concerned that the material will just sink into the silt at the bottom of the lake wherever it would be placed. Concern was also expressed about the possible hazards to boating in the fish enhancement habitat during low lake levels.
Ohio EPA responded that the proposed fish habitat at Fairfield Beach and Brooks Park was removed from the mitigation proposal due to the publicly expressed concerns about the fish habitat being incompatible with the boat traffic. Fish habitat is now planned for Liebs Island, Mud Island, Sellers Point and the North Shore Marina.
Nearly all commenters wanted to see the mitigation plan changed to include bank stabilization along the feeder canals, especially the main feeder-canal in order to address water quality issues. Ohio EPA responded that in order to address the concerns regarding the water quality, ODNR amended its mitigation proposal by modifying the locations of two of the proposed fish habitat enhancement areas, and by including approximately 1,176 linear feet of bank stabilization along the Kirkersville Feeder Canal, from downstream of the Millersport Water Treatment Plant to just upstream of the canal’s confluence with Buckeye Lake.
The canal will be stabilized by contouring both banks to a 2:1 slope, which will then be stabilized with riprap underlain with geotextile fabric. As space and access allows, the newly stabilized banks will be supplemented with native plantings.
The additional mitigation in the feeder canal includes dredging of the sediment along the stream channel, resulting in a slightly deeper channel. The deeper stream channel will allow for the installation of a series of staggered check dams/sediment traps that will provide additional water quality benefits, including (1) oxygenating water flowing into the lake, (2) additional habitat for invertebrate species and cover for fish and (3) reduction of sediment from upstream sources, this reducing nutrient loading from upstream agricultural runoff.
Lakewood students ask for help with drug problem
For the second monthly board meeting in a row, students and parents asked district administrators and board members at the Dec. 13 board meeting to crack down on drug sales and use at the high school. Several students, including student government president and senior Cameron Vayanky, said they have been bullied and harassed by students selling and using drugs at the high school.
“I do not feel safe in this school now,” Vayanky said. “It is a struggle to come to this school sometimes.”
He added that some adults don’t believe them. “I beg, I beg, please listen to us…We need your help. Listen to us.”
Vayanky said students suspected of reporting drug use/sales are targeted in the cafeteria. Food has been thrown on them with little or no action by teachers present. “The cafeteria smells like weed,” he added.
A parent asked what had been done after the widespread complaints about drugs at the November board meeting. Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews said a lot had been going on but she couldn’t talk about any specifics. The parent said he wasn’t seeking names but rather what kind of actions have taken place. Andrews mentioned a newly organized task force but didn’t name any members. Vayanky later mentioned that no seniors are on the task force. Andrew also mentioned talking with parents about drug use and using some outside counseling services. She did not comment on whether any students had been suspended or referred for criminal charges.