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Residents in a section of Buck Township are being asked to “choose their poison” in determining how to address the health concerns their neighborhood poses in the eyes of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The OEPA has said recent studies of Taylor Creek indicate a discharge of raw sewage coming from the triangle-shaped section bordered by Fairground Road, U.S. 68 and Harris Street, just south of the Kenton city limits. The agency has informed Hardin County it needed to address the issue during a meeting in February, but as long as progress was made, there would be no legal action taken against the county.
Tuesday morning, the Hardin County Commissioners met with representatives of the prosecutor’s office, engineer’s office, health department and the City of Kenton to determine how the OEPA expectations will be met.
Prosecutor Brad Bailey said his research on the issue has resulted in three options. The first, said Bailey, would be legal action against each of the 33 home and business owners in the area. In that scenario, Bailey’s office would represent the county health department in court in an effort to have its regulations enforced.
The process would take time, said Bailey, and have little beneficial results. The court could order the property owners to cease using the polluting sewage systems, which would mean residents in the area couldn’t flush their toilets.
“Most people in the area don’t have enough room for a functioning leach bed,” noted Bailey. “That plan is not solving our problem.”
The county could also create a sewer district and the homes and businesses would pay for a sewer line into the Kenton sewer system. But, said Bailey, they would be subject to any rate approved by Kenton City Council. Currently, said Safety Service Director Jim Hites, owners of property outside the corporation limit pay double the city rate for water and sewer services.
The vast majority of the residents in the area have city water service now and pay the double rate, said Hites. A few have sewer service.
But, said Bailey, there is no limit to what the city could charge the residents.
“Double is the basement, but infinity is the ceiling,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”
The third, and in Bailey’s opinion, the best option is to annex the section of Buck Township into Kenton. Buck Township Trustee Jack Fulton said the township does not object to the annexation, but some of the residents are not convinced it is in their best interest.
Bailey said there are pros and cons on the change for the people who live in the triangle. While they would be covered for police protection, they would also be required to pay city income tax.
In order for the annexation to be approved, said Kenton Law Director John Schwemer, 51 percent of the residents in the area need to approve the change.
Bailey suggested the county and city work together on the project, since neither entity could afford to install the trunk sewer line individually. They will seek grants to offset the costs and the balance will be assessed to property owners over an extended period on their taxes, suggested Schwemer.
He said council would consider the annexation request.
“We are willing to talk with you,” said Schwemer.
Hardin County Engineer Mike Smith estimates the cost of installing the main lines to the section would be near $150,000 if the project can be done in the alleys. That, however, is not guaranteed. Buck Township trustees vacated the alleys in that area in 2005. Since then, noted Bailey, buildings have been constructed in the former alleys.
If the alleys are not secured for locating the line, said Smith, the cost of construction in the streets could quadruple the $150,000 estimate.
Smith said his department would design the project, but doesn’t have the manpower to do the construction work.
Schwemer said he would research what legal process would be necessary to either open the alleys or use a utility easement for the sewer lines. Gary Shields of the Kenton-Hardin Health Department and Larry Gossard of the prosecutor’s office will work together to determine which homes are in need of the new service. Bailey said he would further research a sewer district in case the annexation plan doesn’t work.
The group will meet again to discuss the issue on May 24 and set a date to meet with residents of the area. When they meet with residents, they hope to have a better idea of what an individual’s costs would be.
“This could be a tough sell for some people,” said Schwemer. “There could be some resistance on this.”.”
“Something is coming if they like it or not,” said Bailey. “We can work together and combine our resources, but we have to do what is best for everybody … The residents are going to be forced to hook up if it is a judge’s decision, a sewer district or annexing into the city. They’ve got to pick their poison.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer