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Village Council— Morris Bean sewer request raises concerns

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At Village Council’s June 20 meeting, a former Village manager took Council to task for not insisting that Morris Bean be annexed into the Village in exchange for hooking up the company to the Village sewer system. If annexed, the company would pay Village income taxes and thus enhance Village revenues.

“Cities and villages do not give away their sewer services without annexation,” said former Manager Laura Curliss to Council. The proposed agreement between Council and Morris Bean, which does not require annexation, is “extremely rare,” Curliss said.

Morris Bean leaders had requested the sewer connection at Council’s June 6 meeting.

Former Council member Chris Zurbuchen also urged Council to not approve the hookup without annexation.

However, on June 20, Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would allow Morris Bean to connect with the Village sewer system without annexation. The second, and final, reading of the ordinance takes place at Council’s meeting on Tuesday, July 5.

While all Council members approved the first reading of the ordinance, some discomfort was expressed in doing so. Judith Hempfling stated that she feels pressured to move ahead quickly on a decision with significant consequences to the Village.

“There’s not enough time to thoroughly look at these concerns,” Hempfling said.

The potential for contamination to the Village well field requires that Council act on the Morris Bean request to hook up to the sewer, according to Council President Karen Wintrow.

“There can be circumstances that rise above the policy of annexation for services,” Wintrow said. “The potential for environmental damage that we’re preventing by having them on our system is a benefit to the Village.”

Wintrow asked that Council members be specific in their concerns so that more information could be gathered before the next vote on the ordinance. Marianne MacQueen requested that the company state clearly its reasons for not wanting to be annexed into the Village, as well as explaining why the company wants to move quickly.

This was the second meeting during which the Morris Bean sewer hookup dominated Council’s discussion. Several company leaders, including spokesperson Bill Magro, made the request at Council’s previous meeting, but Magro was out of the country and thus not present to respond to questions raised at the June 20 meeting. Company attorney Steve McCready, who did attend the June 20 Council meeting, said he could not speak to the issue of why Morris Bean does not want annexation. However, he said Magrow will do so at Council’s July 5 meeting.

In regard to the company’s wish to move quickly, McCready said that the company recognizes the need to address its failing sewer system and, if not connected to the Village system, would need to quickly construct a new system on site.

“If the agreement doesn’t go forward, we can’t lose another construction season,” McCready said.

The issue of connecting Morris Bean to the Yellow Springs sewer system follows “decades of discussion,” according to Village Solicitor Chris Conard in introducing the ordinance. The discussion began in the late 1990s after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, recommended that Morris Bean either upgrade its on-site sewage treatment system, or hook into the Village system, due to the company system’s poor performance and proximity to the Village wellfield. Morris Bean is located one-half mile north of the Village wellfield and is within the Village well field protection area.

While the Morris Bean sewage treatment system, called a package plant, was considered adequate at the time of its construction in 1967, it later did not meet EPA standards. According to the late consulting environmental engineer John Eastman, the company’s small sanitary sewer system does not operate efficiently in that excess biological solids are discharged into the infiltration pond, or lagoon, and those solids then settle into an organic mat, through which treated wastewater is filtered. Because the bottom of the lagoon is not water tight, there is the potential for the wastewater to then leak into the groundwater.

The potential for contamination of the Village well field from the Morris Bean sewage system has been a concern of various Councils, and a 2010 Village resolution approved moving ahead with connecting the company to the Village sewer system. However, after federal funding was lost for the project, the Village reverted to its previous position of not allowing connection to Village services without annexation.

In 2014 Morris Bean announced it was moving ahead with constructing a new “mound” sewage system, but that construction didn’t take place. Attorney McCready didn’t respond this week to a question regarding why the company didn’t move ahead with that plan.

Other factors that contributed to the long delay in taking action included the need for the two entities to come to agreement on a variety of issues, and a turnover of Village managers in recent years, according to Manager Patti Bates in a previous statement. Morris Bean Attorney McCready said this week that the company agrees with that assessment of the delays.

According to the agreement considered currently by Council, Morris Bean would eliminate its current sanitary waste treatment system if it connects with the Village. The company would also fund the installation of pumping facilities, a meter pit, a force main and other equipment necessary for the connection. It would pay all tap-in fees and expenses related to the project.

The agreement allows only sanitary waste from the company rather than industrial waste, although a limited amount of rinse water from use of the penetrant Zyglo is also permitted, as long as the volume is less than 600 gallons per day.

If the agreement with the Village doesn’t transpire, the company will move ahead this year with the construction of a new mound sanitary sewer system, McCready said. However, he encouraged Council to approve the agreement for the betterment of both parties.

“We think that it’s best for everyone to connect,” he said.

In other Council business:

• Council unanimously approved the second and final reading of an ordinance that updates the “signs” section of the Village zoning code. The changes aim to increase clarity in signage and also to provide more options for business and industrial signs, according to Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger.

• Council  approved a resolution that authorizes the Village manager to make an agreement with the American Electric Power Company for a municipal solar array on the Glass Farm. The vote was 4–1, with Gerry Simms voting against.

• Former Council member Zurbuchen expressed her concern that Council is moving ahead too quickly with current and proposed projects on the Village-owned Glass Farm, including the proposed solar array and the beaver wetland.

“We’re cutting into the property without planning how we want to use it in the future,” she said.

• Council approved a resolution that authorizes Manager Bates to enter into a contract with Tech Advisors for Village technology services.

• Council approved a resolution that acknolwledges Omar Park Estates Day on July 3.

• Council held an hour-long executive session to discuss the potential discipline or dismissal of a Village employee.

Council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, July 5, due to the July 4 holiday on Monday, when Village offices are closed.

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