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Land trust seeks greenbelt funds for Fogg land

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At their Feb. 1 meeting, Village Council members were asked to use a large portion of the Village greenbelt fund to preserve a strategic piece of local farmland.

“We have an opportunity to protect a significant local farm,” said Krista Magaw, director of the Tecumseh Land Trust, who made a presentation at the meeting.

The topic was discussion only. Council members said they would act on Magaw’s request at their next meeting, on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The land is the 225-acre property that fronts on Fairfield Road and was the property of the late Kingsley and Lucy Fogg. The property is now owned by the Fulton family, who recently purchased the land and seeks to protect it from development with an agricultural easement.

The Miami Township Trustees have viewed this land as “a very high priority for protection, both in terms of where it is in the township and in that it is a ‘missing piece’ of a large block of protected land,” Magaw wrote in a letter to Council. “Our philosophy and the prevailing wisdom is to protect blocks of farmland,” she said at the meeting.

The farm in question is bordered by several already-protected properties, including the Fulton farm to the northwest, the Stockwell farm to the south and west, and Whitehall farm to the east and north. If all these properties were protected, the contiguous block of conserved farmland would be 1,372 acres, according to Magaw’s letter.

Tecumseh Land Trust, or TLT, seeks to apply to the federal Farm and Ranchland Purchase Program, or FRPP, for a grant equal to 50 percent of the appraised easement value of the land, if the group can certify that local municipal funds are available to pay 25 percent, according to Magaw, who said the Fultons have offered to donate the remaining 25 percent of the appraised easement value. The easement value is estimated at between $2,500 and $3,000 per acre.

The Village’s portion would be a maximum of $168,750. Currently, the Village has $237,000 in its greenbelt fund.

The deadline for submissions for 2010 is March 1. Tecumseh Land Trust has requested over $2 million for 14 projects from the FRPP over the last six years, and has received everything requested, according to Magaw’s letter.

“We cannot guarantee that the application will be successful, though our rate of success is high for this program,” Magaw wrote.

Tecumseh Land Trust has been working with both Village Council and the Miami Township Trustees to protect local farmland since the group formed 20 years ago. Its most significant local success has been the preservation of Whitehall Farm in 1999, which largely depleted the Village’s greenbelt fund. That fund remained low in the following years, and in the past several years TLT leaders and Council members have sought to replenish it, partly due to Magaw’s statement last year that Jacoby greenbelt farmland on the western edge of the village could be available soon. The Fogg property is not in the Jacoby greenbelt; rather, it is located in the area that the Miami Township Trustees have in the past focused on preserving with the $100,000 they set aside yearly for farmland conservation.

However, the Trustees’ greenbelt fund is currently depleted after the purchase of an easement for the Bullen farm on Hilt Road, according to Magaw’s letter. Consequently, due to the importance of the land’s location in an otherwise preserved block of farmland, TLT encourages Council to help preserve the land. Conversations with owners of Jacoby greenbelt farmland are ongoing, Magaw said.

In other Council business:

• Council heard a report from Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Joe Bates on the recent test of Village drinking water using potassium permanganate. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, had requested the test be performed as a possible way to lessen the amount of iron and manganese, which causes brown coloring, in the water.

However, according to Bates, the test, which began the end of October, was stopped after a short time because the addition of potassium permanganate, or pp, increased rather than decreased the levels of manganese and iron.

“The test was not successful,” Bates said.

The problem seemed to be the amount of sludge in Village water pipes, according to Bates, who said the addition of the pp stirred up the sludge that has accumulated over many years in the pipes. The sludge, which is composed of accumulated iron and manganese from the ground, is not a health risk, he said. However, the pipes should be cleaned out before the test is tried again, and cleaning the pipes would require that they not be in use, which is not realistic because the pipes are always in use.

A possible option is the construction of a new water plant, but that option is too expensive for the near future, he said. However, Bates said he has hired divers to inspect the conditions inside the Village reaction basin and clearwell. Bates also suggested that Council fund an engineering study to identify options for addressing the problems at the water plant. According to Village Manager Mark Cundiff, the 2010 Village budget will contain funds for such a study.

• Council members continued their discussion of 2010 Village goals, focusing on action steps to meet the six overarching goals that Council approved in its most recent meeting. Each Council member had submitted her or his own suggestions for action steps, and Interim Council Clerk Denise Swinger had combined those that seemed similar. Council will further discuss the revised list at an upcoming meeting.

• Council unanimously passed the second reading of new Village water rates.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that makes Rachel McKinley the new Village treasurer. The part-time position had been formerly held by the late Council Clerk Deborah Benning. Finalists for the clerk position are now being interviewed, according to Council member Lori -Askeland.

• Council approved 2010 membership dues for the Village in Business First. Membership in the group is helpful because it helps the Village stay in touch with the needs and concerns of local businesses, according to Council member Karen Wintrow.

• Council will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers. The meeting is postponed a day from the regular meeting time due to the Presidents’ Day holiday.

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