Silver Lake -- After again hearing from residents who objected to a proposed water system maintenance charge, Village Council decided to table the legislation until Nov. 21.
In the interim, Council will meet in a work session to discuss the issue on Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Village Hall, 2961 Kent Road.
Council on Sept. 6 gave a third reading to an amendment to the village's water rate ordinance stating that all residents who are connected to the water system and those whose connection to the water system is through fire hydrant service must pay a minimum fixed charge for upkeep of the system.
Nearly every resident is connected to the village's water and sewer systems and pays a flat rate of $15.94 per month for water system maintenance and is then also charged for the water they use. There are 30 village homes on North Dover Road and Woodland Lane that are not connected to the village's water or sewer system who do not pay this flat rate, according to village officials. With the legislation, officials proposed charging $15.94 per month to these residents because water from a fire hydrant could be used to put out a blaze at their home.
At the Council meeting on Aug. 15, eight residents voiced their opposition to the charge because they are not tapped into the village's water system and the only way they would use water is if the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department responded to a blaze at their home. On Sept. 6, three residents spoke out against the proposal, two of whom spoke last month.
Noting that the village would receive about $6,100 per year from the 30 homes, Woodland Lane resident Kathleen Edwards asked what she and her neighbors would receive in return. She said if Council could articulate the benefit the residents would receive, her neighbors "might be able to be persuaded" that the charge is warranted. Without such an explanation, Edwards said the proposed fee seemed like a "revenue-enhancer," or a "money grab." Edwards suggested that a water use fee could be collected when the hydrant is used to put out a fire at one of the homes on North Dover Road or Woodland Lane.
"This seems a little more equitable than charging us the same amount that everyone else in the village is paying," said Edwards.
"There has to be another way, another possibility of coming up with a way of covering those types of costs," added North Dover Road resident Jeffrey Sain. "/It's not fair."
Council Vice President Carol Steiner (District B) suggested that Council consider charging the residents $5 per month "in an effort to be fair and equitable." This led to a discussion in which Council decided to table the legislation until Nov. 21.
"They're not going to access that system very much," said Council member Christopher Scott (District A). "/I think we do have to listen to them /because they do have some fair and valid points."
Scott also emphasized that the proposed fee was geared toward fairness rather than as a financial gain for the village.
Steiner noted that the $5 a month fee was just an idea to get a discussion started and said she felt Council needed to try to reach agreement on what it felt was fair.
Mayor Bernie Hovey noted there are 12 other homes in the village that are not hooked into the village's water system, but are already paying $15.94 per month. The homes are on DeGruchy Drive, Kent Road, Harriett Road, Englewood Drive and Lake Road.
"If we're going to not [charge North Dover Road and Woodland Lane residents], we have to make it right with the other residents, too," said Hovey.
Solicitor Robert Heydorn suggested that Council have a work session on the issue and have a schedule for addressing the measure "so that it doesn't drop from the agenda," and so "that whatever develops is a composite of what everybody's thinking."
Council voted 5-0 in favor of tabling the legislation until Nov. 21. Council member William Church (At Large) abstained from the vote. Church told the Falls News-Press on Sept. 7 he abstained from the vote and recused himself from discussion of the issue because he has a "business deal going on with one of the people who live on North Dover [Road]."