The west Groveport Road sanitary sewer project could be resurrected as Groveport Village Council wrestles with its funding options and awaits environmental testing results.
The proposed 2,100 foot, $863,000 ($1.6 million if potential interest on notes/bonds is included in the total cost) sanitary sewer line would include properties along Groveport Road west from Greenpointe Drive to the First Baptist Church of Groveport. The sewer line would serve an area encompassing 240 acres.
Back to the drawing board
Council rejected a resolution on financing and extending the proposed sanitary sewer line project by a 3-2 vote last Dec. 18 with council members Ed Rarey, Jim Staebler, and Jan Stoots voting against it and Jean Ann Hilbert and Ed Dildine supporting it. (Councilwoman Donna Drury was absent at that meeting.)
Those voting against the project felt it placed too high of a financial burden in the form of assessments on the residential property owners in the affected area.
At its July 16 committee of the whole meeting, Village Administrator Jon Crusey told council the proposed sewer project has resurfaced following meetings and correspondence the village has had with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In an April 26 letter to the village, the EPA’s Central District Office Chief Craig Butler, expressing disappointment in the failure of the project to move forward, wrote, "Plainly put, the status quo, a hodge-podge of unpermitted, violating, or inadequate sewage systems is not an acceptable option to the Ohio EPA for long term management of sewage in this area (west Groveport Road)."
At a meeting between village representatives, interested parties, and the EPA in May, the EPA requested village officials discuss with council its reconsideration of the sewer project along with alternative methods of financing.
In return, the village asked for the EPA and Franklin County Board of Health to provide Groveport officials with a written assessment of the status of the existing on-site sanitary sewer systems along west Groveport Road; and a ruling on whether the single family residences in the area could not be required to hook up to the new system for 10 years or until their on-site system failed.
In response, the EPA will conduct sampling tests in the area in September. However, in a letter dated July 13, the Franklin County Board of Health ruled that, if a new public sewer system was in place, the residential properties would have to hook up to it.
Crusey told council the village could be reimbursed for costs associated with the construction of the sewer by either instituting direct assessments on the affected property owners for 20 years; or creating an assessment district where property owners would have to pay for their portion of the system in one lump sum payment.
According to village officials, direct assessments are used to pay for a project when a municipality determines there is a need to extend a utility and the affected property owners have not voluntarily petitioned the government to do so. (Owners of the 16 properties in the affected area are divided on the project.)
The 20 year estimated assessment costs for the 16 affected properties in the proposed project area range from $6,051 to $518,728 based on acreage; and from $19,280 to $225,026 based on frontage.
But Crusey then laid out other options for council to consider.
"Council doesn’t have to assess 100 percent of the cost of the project," said Crusey. "You could just assess the construction, or you could assess whatever percentage you want, or set a specific dollar figure."
Crusey added that council could also choose to not to assess the project at all and instead could increase the sewer fees for all the residents of the village to pay for the project.
Diana Ward, who owns commercial property in the affected area, said alternative methods of financing, such as grants, need to be explored.
"I feel it is a cost that shouldn’t be placed as a burden on the property owners," said Ward. "It isn’t fair and it isn’t right."
Village officials noted that grants are not readily available for a project such as this which includes commercial properties.
Property owner viewpoints
Marc Studley of Access Storage, located on west Groveport Road, along with representatives of the neighboring First Baptist Church of Groveport, have long pushed for the sewer project. Studley has stated the benefits the sanitary sewer line would bring to the area include: commercial and light industrial growth as outlined in the village’s comprehensive plan; additional income tax revenue; development that would not add students to "an already overburdened school district;" and that new development would clean up "a blighted area" that more than 10,000 cars per day pass through.
Other property owners oppose the project because of the assessment costs. At council meetings last winter, Ob Hartman, spoke for his mother, Doris Hartman, who owns a large tract of farm land at Saltzgaber and Groveport roads that has been in her family more than 70 years. He said the proposed sewer line offers no benefit for the property and the assessments would be a harsh financial burden on his mother.
According to the village’s estimated 20 year assessments, Hartman could face an assessment of $518,728 ($25,936 per year) based on acreage; or $219,960 ($10,998 per year) based on frontage to pay for the sewer line on her property if the project goes forward.
Council will await the results of the EPA and county’s health and environmental testing of the area, which is expected to be completed in September, before taking any further action regarding the sewer project.