Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Higher fees likely in 7 townships in Lucas County

Charge would cover storm-water utility

Residents, businesses, schools, and other entities in seven Lucas County townships are likely to see an extra charge on their property tax bills next year.

The Lucas County commissioners are expected to approve the creation of a storm-water utility district in May, which would be supported by new fees levied on property owners. The district would be charged with managing storm water runoff and improving the cleanliness of rivers, lakes, and streams to bring the county into line with federal mandates.

Homeowners in Jerusalem, Monclova, Spencer, Springfield, Sylvania, Washington, and Waterville townships would pay an average of $48.72 a year toward the district. Commercial businesses and other entities such as churches and schools that have large rooftops or parking areas would pay considerably more. The rates would remain the same for two years and be subject to revision at the end of that period, Lucas County commissioner Pete Gerken said.

"The federal government has mandated us to do these activities," Mr. Gerken said. "And I think clean water is just good public policy and there's a cost to it."

If the townships and the county do not adhere to the mandates they could face large fines, he added.

The new district would pay for a number of activities and improvements related to storm-water management and education as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Currently, some of those activities are paid for by the county, and various county agencies, but those funds have not been enough to meet all of the EPA specifications, officials said. The mandates have been in place for several years and the city of Toledo already has a storm water utility.

Services provided by the Lucas County storm water utility district would include:

● Detection and elimination of illegal discharges of contaminants into the storm sewer system.

● Control of runoff from construction sites.

● Prevention or reduction of the amount of pollutants that drain into storm sewers from municipal activities.

● Education of the public on the impact of polluted storm water runoff on water quality.

The proposed fees would also be used to hire storm water inspectors and other technical personnel and to carry out sewer cleaning, ditch projects, and street sweeping, among other efforts related to storm water management.

All three county commissioners said Wednesday they plan to approve the creation of the district, along with the accompanying fees.

Mr. Gerken said he expects the commissioners to vote on the issue during the board's regular meeting on May 10.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she supports the plan because it protects the environment and gives the county and local communities a say in how they want to proceed in meeting the EPA regulations.

"If you're proactive and you create your own plan, then the EPA doesn't come in and tell you what to do and how much to spend," Ms. Wozniak said. "It's thorough; it'll be everyone pitching in together and it will be protecting the environment and controlling runoff."

Protecting the Lucas County's waterways and lakes is also crucial for the region's economic health and quality of life, Commissioner Carol Contrada said.

"It's a firm commitment to fundamentally support and maintain a really critical aspect of our infrastructure, which is clean and safe water," the commissioner said.

The decision to create the district follows two years of discussions among the county, township officials and other community entities.

Recommendations on the rates were made by a private consultant and also a storm water advisory committee made up of representatives from businesses, educational, and nonprofit establishments and homeowners, Mr. Gerken said.

Not all township trustees are supportive of the measure.

Sylvania Township Trustee Kevin Haddad said Wednesday the utility charge is being thrust on township residents at a time when they can least afford to pay for tax increases.

The fees raised from Sylvania Township will amount to about $1 million, he said

"I know it needs to be done, it's just at what scale. With the economy the way it is you have to look at how much people can afford right now," he said.

Mr. Haddad also expressed concern that the county commissioners would be able to raise the rates without consulting the townships.

Other township trustees, however, agreed with the commissioners that the new fees are necessary to help communities comply with the law, even though they pose an additional burden on taxpayers.

"Many of the requirements are EPA federal mandates," said Monclova Township Trustee Barbara Lang. "I have no choice in my support."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett or 419-724-6272.

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