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Stormwater fee tabled

After much discussion over the past couple of meetings, the Ironton City Council tabled an ordinance that would change the stormwater rates in the city.

Ordinance 19-18 would amend the city’s stormwater utility fee so that residential homes would have a flat fee of $15. The fee would be $40 for commercial businesses with property at 6,600 feet or less, including a 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.

There was a lot of discussion during audience participation about how it would affect people and businesses.

Vice Mayor Rich Blankenship said, to him, the stormwater fee was tied in with other things like the city applying for a zero percent interest loan for work on the Batham Lane-area project to separate the combined stormwater and sewer lines. That project has been mandated by the Ohio EPA.

“We are going to have to raise rates at some point, no matter what plan goes into effect,” he said.

He pointed out that a survey sent out on utility bills has four options to see what type of plan people would support, but that there was a chance that none of those options would be supported if it was put on the November ballot for voters to decide.

He said there needs to be a Plan B because the city has to pay for the sewer separation and the loan will be paid off over 40 years at $325,000 a year, which means rates will have to increase at some point.

“We are going to have to bite the bullet, council, and increase the rates or else we are going to get our butts fined again,” Blankenship said. “We need to quit beating around the dang-gone bush. We keep pushing things down the road for the next council and the next mayor. I’m tired of that.”

He pointed out that when he was mayor, he had to send a check for $98,000 to pay off an EPA fine.

“The EPA is not a joke. We need to quit this playing around and get something done,” he said. “We are elected to make these decisions and I’m tired of it. We are elected to make these decisions and we’re not doing it, in my personal opinion. It is going hurt, no matter what passes.”

Several councilmen pointed out that their recommended plans would help cover the costs of paying back the loan.

Councilman Jim Tordiff said if any of the plans were to pass, there were mechanisms in place to lessen fee increases.

“That loan would be paid from General Fund money,” he said.

But he said that if the plan doesn’t pass in November, the council is back to raising rates.

For those interested in more information about the plans on the survey, they can go to the city’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IrontonOhio45638/videos to watch the public forum when all the plans were explained by the councilmen that sponsored them.

In other items on the agenda, the council also tabled an ordinance about establishing an annual business permit for group homes in the city. Legal counsel Brigham Anderson is doing more research to make sure that it is compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

An ordinance about establishing a truck route got first reading. The route would be for trucks headed to Muth Lumber and would be on Latonia Street between 12th and 13th streets and on 12th Street between Latonia and Ashtabula streets.

The council passed a resolution allowing the mayor to apply for a water pollution control loan for the construction, planning and design of the sewer system on Batham Lane as part of the fourth phase of the combined sewer and stormwater separation project.

They also passed resolution that would establish a disaster recovery plan that designates the Finance Department as the ones in charge of getting the city’s computers back online after the computer system is rendered unusable.

A resolution about the Finance Department joining the Ohio Treasurer’s Checkbook program and putting the past five years of expenses online passed, although it was amended so that the department has until Dec. 31 to get the spending data on ohiocheckbook.com. Once it is up, taxpayers can use the searchable database to see what their municipality is spending money on.