Stormwater ordinance debated: Residents who don’t pay fees can be cited into court

Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

At Thursday’s meeting, the Ironton City Council established penalties for anyone who doesn’t pay their utility bills.

Now, if the municipal, economic development, flood, fire, administrative, municipal or storm water fees go unpaid, people can now face the municipal court judge on a misdemeanor charge.

An ordinance to amend the city budget got a favorable recommendation by the council’s finance committee and was approved unanimously.

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Ordinance 19-17, which would go on an ordinance to establish an annual business permit for group homes in the city, got a second reading.

And a resolution to transfer funds from inactive accounts into a capital improvement account was approved.

Ordinance 19-18, which would amend the stormwater utility fee, got a second reading.  Residential homes would have a flat fee of $15. The fee would be $40 for commercial businesses where property is 6,600 feet or less, including parking lot. For businesses with more than 6,600 feet of property, the fee would be a flat fee of $70 a month per water meter.

After the regular meeting ended, the council members went into a public utilities committee meeting to discuss the ordinance further.

Council member Craig Harvey said there was concern from citizens because the plan wasn’t tiered in a way to help out the retired citizens or others on fixed incomes.

He said it couldn’t be done as a tiered pricing program.

“My feeling is that, regardless of what we are going to do, it is going to increase for those people,” he said. “And the second thing is a tiered system is impossible because that is considered a tax. If you consider someone’s financial position in order to levy a fee, that is no longer a fee. That is a tax.”

He said the system in the ordinance only considers if a property is residential or commercial.

“The ordinance should only address how much your run off is,” he said, adding the city has been measuring the stormwater runoff with a “lazy method” by estimating it from water consumption “which makes no sense at all.”

Councilman Chuck O’Leary said he thought the business side of the ordinance was great but he had concerns that those who use 1,000 gallons would be charged a bit more but those who used 3,000-4,000 gallons would see a reduction in their bill.

He said he didn’t know what the solution was since a tiered pricing system presents its own problems.

“I don’t have a better solution,” he said, adding he would support it.

In the public section of the regular meeting, Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith spoke to council and said the plant that makes asphalt has opened back up for spring and city crews were filling in the potholes that developed over the winter.

“The street department dropped everything to go out and patch up some potholes,” she said, adding on Thursday the crew worked on Railroad and Vernon streets. “And if we continue to have sunshine, we will continue that process.”

She next reported the flood department had reported the embankment by the Fifth Street Bridge had fallen because of the recent floodwaters.

“We do have papers from FEMA and are submitting it to see if we can get that embankment stabilized.”

She added that applying for emergency funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is a long process. She said that the street department had done a temporary fix of rebuilding the embankment and cars and trucks can cross the bridge, but not heavy vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances.

Keith was asked about upgraded playground equipment and she said they have an intern from Ohio University Southern and he is going through the process of filing paperwork with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to get a grant for handicapped-accessible equipment.

“The area we are looking at is the Aetna Street Park, because that is a central location,” she said, adding they are considering taking out the tennis court at the park because the play surface is starting to crack and is in terrible shape. She added there are tennis courts available at the high school.

“The intern is assessing that now. We may take it out and place equipment there,” Keith said.

Council member Nate Kline asked her to consider turning that court into a pickle ball court since there is public demand for one. Keith said they will consider that idea.