By David Spice
Special to the Beacon Journal
NORTON: City Council passed an ordinance Monday evening that, if voters agree, would amend the city’s charter and cap at $5,000 the assessment a Norton property owner would pay for “construction of and connection to water and/or sewer lines.”
Voting for the ordinance were Charlotte Whipkey, Bill Mowery, John Conklin, Todd Bergstrom and Dennis McGlone. Casting “no” votes were Don Nicolard and Scott Pelot.
Council’s 5-2 vote sends the measure to the Summit County Board of Elections, with a special election date of Dec. 10.
Norton Mayor Mike Zita said after the meeting that he would sign the ordinance.
Voters overwhelmingly defeated a similar charter amendment in a special election Aug. 6. Almost immediately afterward, city resident William Paluch obtained enough signatures to put the issue back on a ballot. The process of validating those petitions did not occur in time for the measure to appear on the general election ballot Nov. 5, creating a contentious debate over the date of another special election.
Special elections were discussed at some length at council’s meeting Sept. 16, with some officials saying an election before Jan. 1, 2014, could cost as much as $40,000. The election in August cost approximately $12,000.
Whipkey said Monday that the Board of Elections told her that if a special election were held Dec. 10 or Dec. 17, the cost should not exceed $23,000. She recommended that council approve the election for Dec. 10.
Zita said that normally the first Tuesday in February is when special elections are held, and if council approved that date, it would keep the costs down because Norton probably would share the expense with other communities.
Nicolard, the council president, previously had said he would vote “no” on any such charter provision because voters already had spoken on the sewer issue.
“I said I would go to jail before I would vote ‘yes’ on yet another similar charter addition,” he stated at the meeting. “And I mean it. The voters in my ward [Ward 2] overwhelmingly voted against the last attempt at such a charter amendment, and I am not going to go against their wishes.”
Before council’s vote Monday, Paluch threatened to take the issue to court if council failed to pass the ordinance.
“I will have my attorney sue to have the issue placed on the ballot. You [council] are denying my right to put it on the ballot,” he said during the meeting.
Zita will meet with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency within the next couple of weeks, perhaps with some council members, to discuss what steps can be taken on the sewer issue. A date has not been set.
The Ohio EPA has ruled that failed septic systems in the city, particularly in the Nash Heights neighborhood, are polluting public water and must be replaced with a sewer system.