State Representative Chris Redfern, starting his second stint in Columbus in that position, held a Town Hall session Friday morning at Port Clinton City Hall.
A large number of residents and business owners from along Lakeshore Drive on Port Clinton’s west side decided it would be a good opportunity to vent their frustrations about being forced to tap in to a city sewer line that was put in place a couple of years ago to service Camp Perry and the Lake Erie Business Park.
80 residents and businesses have been notified by the Ottawa County Health Department that they must tie into the line by the latter part of 2013 or face legal action. For some of the residents that cost is upwards of $15,000. For some of the businesses, the number is much higher. One campground operator stated that he had already had to borrow $31,000 to pay impact fees.
All of the elected and non-elected county officials agreed that an order that has been mandated by the Health Department and the Ohio EPA, as this one has, will certainly be followed through. The way the sewer project was put together in the first place makes it ineligible for a program that allows assessments for the individual tap-ins to be paid over 20 years. Block grants can be applied for, but would cover only the 9 or 10 residents with the lowest incomes, according to Geno Monaco.
County Commissioner Steve Arndt spoke to the gathering, pledging that the county commissioners will sit down with the City of Port Clinton to come up with some creative means of financing for both the residents and the business owners, to help alleviate the impact of getting hit with big fees before the end of the year. Redfern suggested that the residents ask for an extension from the Ottawa County Board of Health. “We need to go through a process to find resources to cover the costs,” said Redfern.
Monaco noted that the interpretation of the laws by state agencies and the health department has changed in the last three years, since the dumping of phosphorus into Lake Erie began to cause the algae blooms in the lake in 2011. The environmental health of Lake Erie has become a much higher priority.
The overall consensus among the county and city officials in attendance was that some sort of low interest or no interest financing be found to help the business and property owners extend out the cost of the tap-in requirement.