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Gardeners may get utilities break

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Yellow Springs gardeners will soon get a break on their Village utility bills if Council approves a new resolution at its next meeting.

Currently, local gardeners not only pay for the water used when watering their gardens, but they pay higher sewer bills as well, as Village sewer bills are based on water use. Gardener Joan Evans has over the past year requested that the Village reconsider its policy, as the water used by gardeners does not go through the sewer system, so that, she believes, gardeners should have to pay for their water use only.

At their May 16 meeting, the majority of Council members agreed, and requested that Village Manager Mark Cundiff prepare legislation for their June 6 meeting that would allow gardeners to purchase a special outside meter to deduct the water used for irrigation from the sewer bill. The vote was 4–1, with Lori Askeland voting against. Askeland stated that her primary interest was in water conservation, and that this approach would promote more, rather than less, water usage as well as perhaps negatively affecting the sewer fund.

At the meeting, Cundiff reported on a survey of about 20 local communities regarding how they address the issue. While some towns have no policy, others allow gardeners to purchase a special irrigation meter to chart gardening usage, although the cost to the gardener for the meter is more than $300. A second option is for gardeners to purchase a deduct meter, at a cost of about $100, to place outside, so that the amount of water used irrigating could be subtracted from sewer bills. The fourth option, to charge all residents for winter usage amounts in summer, could impact other villagers negatively, Cundiff said.

Cundiff recommended the deduct meter option as the less costly choice to village gardeners, as well as an option that doesn’t impact non-gardeners.

Most Council members agreed.

“I like the pay-as-you-go option,” said Rick Walkey. “I think we should pay for what we use.”

However, Karen Wintrow said she’s not convinced that gardeners are concerned about the issue, as she hasn’t heard from many of them.

Rather than using Village water, gardeners could find more conservation-based strategies for watering gardens or grass, such as capturing water from the roof with a rainwater catchment barrel, according to Askeland. However, Evans said that strategy is difficult when the garden is located far from the house.

In other Council business:

• Council expressed support for a request from Ali Thomas for a new program that would allow low-income children who might not be able to afford it otherwise to use the Gaunt Park swimming pool. Thomas said that she and Denise Swinger of Starfish are working together on the effort.

Currently, a season pool pass for a child aged 4 to 18 is $65 (swimming is free for those under four) and a family pass for five individuals is $125 per season. “Last year I knew some kids whose mothers couldn’t afford this,” Thomas said to Council. “I saw a need to help the people who are currently working to help out.”

Thomas requested that Council give a 25 to 50 percent discount on pool passes to those families that make up to 50 percent of the Greene County median income. After discussion, Council members agreed to give a 50 percent discount to eligible families.

“It feels important that we be inclusive in this way,” Judith Hempfling said.

Over the years, there have been a variety of informal ways in the village to help low-income kids have access to the pool, Thomas said. For many years, the late Mary Ann Bebko provided passes for children in need, and after her death Greene Met housing, with help from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, stepped in to provide pool passes, Thomas said. Greene Met reported that it provided 75 passes at half price in 2005 and 45 in 2006.

For the past two years, young people who spend time at the Bryan Center Youth Center raised money with car washes and concession sales to pay for passes for low-income families, and last year 25 people received pool passes from the proceeds, although there was not enough money for two families who made a request, Thomas said.

“The need still exists,” Thomas wrote in a report to Council.

She and Swinger hope to make the funding program more robust and stable, Thomas said. They have requested $3,000 from the Yellow Springs Community Council for funding, and have prepared a letter requesting donations from individuals.

The program would not mean that the Village would lose revenues from the pool, because most of the children involved would not be able to use the pool otherwise.

“This means higher usage of the facility,” she said.

Cundiff said he will research whether discounting pool passes for appropriate families requires new legislation, and will report back to Council.

• Council discussed forming a technical review committee to help with the selection of a consultant for the zoning code update, and to act as a steering committee with the consultant through the process. Village staff recommended that the group contain two members of the Planning Commission, two from the Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA, and two village residents appointed by Council, along with staff.

According to a memo from Cundiff, Matt Reed and Tim Tobey from the Planning Commission have volunteered, and Steve Conn and Ted Donnell from the BZA will also be appointed. Hempfling suggested Marianne MacQueen and Chris Till as citizen representatives.

• Council members unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance regarding Internet gambling cafe regulations. The ordinance, proposed by Village Law Director John Chambers, aims to give the Village authority to regulate the location of gambling-oriented Internet cafe businesses that have been springing up in the state, since the Village doesn’t have the authority to forbid them. The ordinance would not allow the establishments in the downtown area but only in the central business district south of town.

• Council approved a first reading of an ordinance that authorizes a water tap on the property of Mark and Dorothy Roosevelt outside the Village limits. The ordinance does not affect the neighboring property owned by Ken Struewing, who is suing the Village for utility access.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 6.


3 Responses to “Gardeners may get utilities break”

  1. Mark Heise says:

    Bah. If you are truly worried about costs, I can show you ways to collect rainwater in a sealed environment and bypass using the village water altogether for your gardening. Save money, save the environment and live sustainably. We store more than 500 gallons for watering our plants and lawns during the dry times and have never run out of water. I am guessing the sewer charges are estimated as an amortization across all water usage. If this is the case, this will ultimately mean that all water rates will go up, whether you have a garden or not.

  2. Robin Suits says:

    I owe an apology to Karen Wintrow. She was not on the Council when we made our request.

  3. Robin Suits says:

    This is a great idea. Count me among the gardeners who have been concerned about this for a long time. My husband and I went to Village Council several years ago to seek a reprieve from a one-month water bill that was at least $300 more than our average. We explained that while we were on vacation in August, we hired a teenager to water our outside plants. He accidentally left our hose running for two or three days, resulting in the huge water bill. We argued that our sewer charge should be discounted since the water that ran out of the hose did not enter the sewer system. I am surprised Karen Wintrow doesn’t remember this. She was one of the Council members who voted not to give us a discount.

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