SUMMIT COUNTY Northern Summit County communities who have fought the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District stormwater management plan for years may find a way out of the district. While a Summit County proposal states residents would still have to pay a monthly stormwater fee, all of the money they pay would go to resolving stormwater problems affecting their community, according to Heidi Swindell, spokesperson for the Summit County Engineer's Office.

A proposed Summit County Surface Water Management District would function as a utility and would charge residents a monthly fee. Summit County Engineer Alan Brubaker proposed the plan to Summit County Council as a voluntary program for townships, but cities and villages could opt in to the program as well.

"We started with presenting to townships and kind of tailoring it that way because townships under state law cannot do off-roadway drainage, whereas municipalities have more powers to be able to address surface water," Swindell said.

She expects the engineer's proposal to be presented to Summit County Council for approval within the next couple of months.

Sagamore Hills Township attorney Jeff Snell said that a 2012 settlement agreement between NEORSD and Sagamore Hills, Northfield Village, Macedonia, Hudson, and Richfield Village gives the Summit County communities the right to leave the sewer district, as long as they become part of a similar stormwater management utility -- such as the one being proposed in Summit County. The communities had fought the sewer district for years in court, arguing it does not have the authority to manage stormwater.

Under the agreement with NEORSD, only 25 percent of funds generated from stormwater management fees in the Summit County communities are guaranteed to be spent on stormwater problems in those communities.

The Summit County program is in early stages of planning and many questions are still being answered, but eight of the nine townships in Summit County attended an informational meeting March 20.

"Where the money goes, how the money is planned for projects, there are still a lot of unanswered questions," said Northfield Center Trustee Rich Reville. "I know they are working diligently on it."

Swindell said the program is voluntary and it would be up to a community's elected leaders to decide whether their communities would join. In communities that do join, she said residents would pay a $4 monthly fee while businesses would be charged based on the amount of impervious surface area they have on their properties. Properties with a homestead exemption would be granted a 25 percent reduction in fees, for a cost of $3 per month.

While fees paid to NEORSD vary, Sagamore Hills residents pay an average $9.27 per month according to Sagamore Hills Trustee Paul Schweikert.

Macedonia Mayor Joe Migliorini said he had heard of the engineer's proposal, but was not familiar enough with the situation to be able to comment.

Snell said he believes Sagamore Hills, along with Macedonia and the other towns, would prefer to work with Summit County, rather than the NEORSD.

"We've always felt that if this program was closer to home, it would be of greater benefit to the communities," Snell said.

Swindell said the program would give the county the ability to enforce uniform rules and regulations and mission. According to the proposal, "All money collected from a political subdivision will be used to benefit that political subdivision."

Additionally, as with NEORSD's program, property owners could receive credits for performing unrequired stormwater control measures.

While Reville said it is too early to tell if the program would provide funds to alleviate all drainage problems in the township, Swindell said the township could opt to put those funds toward the engineering costs of some work, such as problems in the Dorwick ditch neighborhood. She said that due to the scope of the estimated $500,000 project, assessments may still be likely due to maintenance costs.

Schweikert said that while Sagamore Hills doesn't have any pending petitions before the county, there are problematic areas throughout the township.

"There are a number of yards that have flooding issues but the township is not allowed to address them," Schweikert said. "We are looking at water problems that could damage homes or add erosion. Those are the ones we are looking to resolve."

He said the trustees would be very interested in the district, because the township receives less revenue from its current plan with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433