NORDONIA HILLS — Every time a Northfield Center or Sagamore Hills resident turns on a tap that lets water flow from Cleveland, it is part of a half-century of local history that Basil Lovano has seen and is still very much a part of.

Next January, the 86-year-old Northfield Center resident will mark 50 years as a founding member of the North Hills Water District Board of Trustees.

"I think I’m the only [original member] living now," he said.

The rest of the board, which includes representatives of the two townships, approved a resolution honoring Lovano for serving continuously on the board since Jan. 14, 1970.

"He has been a valuable asset to the Board and our community," long-time District Fiscal Officer Jeff Snell said.

"I’ve known him most of my life, just from him being a resident and active in things," said Snell, adding "It’s kind of amazing. There are not a lot of people who would do that that long."

Actually, Lovano’s involvement with the district goes back before he joined the board.

"I was part of the committee to figure out how we could get water to the area," he said. "I got to know a few of the [Northfield Center] trustees and they kind of made me feel I should get involved in my community."

That involvement goes beyond the water district board. He said he has also been a member of the Northfield Center zoning commission for at least 30 years and has represented the township with the Western Reserve Cable 9 Consortium for longer than he could say.

"They’re all people that really want to make this as good a community as they possibly can," he said.

Lovano said it is no accident that all of these positions he holds are appointed, rather than elected.

"I was interested in being a part of the community without being on the ballot," he said, adding "It’s really been great to serve the community. You really get to know a lot of people and get to know everything that’s happening. I’m kind of one of those people that would like to know everything that’s going on and, if possible, help."

Lovano said that in the late 1960s, the two townships were less developed than they are now, with most residents using wells to get water. It worked at the time, but there were concerns that the water supply would shrink as population grew.

"We built our homes out here and we did have wells and most of us had pretty good wells, but trying to look to the future, we figured that with the growth out here the problem would be with all of us out here, we may run out of water," said Lovano.

In the following years, voters approved a series of bond issues to finance the construction of water lines.

"Every time we did that, it seemed to work out," he said. "The people were really for the water district."

Meanwhile, residential developers were required to include water lines in their developments and Lovano estimated that it took 20 to 25 years to construct most of the now existing lines, although in some places, property owners still use wells by choice and/or because of the expense and difficulty of running lines to those places.

Snell said that the district now owns 91 miles of water lines to pipe in water from Cleveland Water. According to the district’s 2018 annual financial report, the district took in nearly $300,000 in funding last year, of which nearly $190,000 was from a property tax levy and nearly $75,000 from various reimbursements, mainly for damage done to district property.

And the district is still in the business of installing new lines and replacing old ones.

"We’ve had these lines in long enough that some of them have broken down over the last few years and we’ve had to replace them," he said.

Lovano said that this year, the district is planning to install a new water line along Natalie Boulevard in both townships that will include fire hydrants. He said it is expected to be completed this year. Snell said the new line between Spring Creek and Sandy Hill roads is estimated to cost $338,000, with Northfield Center paying about $160,000 and Sagamore Hills and the district close to splitting the remainder.

Macedonia Fire Chief Brian Ripley said in April that the line is needed because to fight a fire there now, the fire department has to go through the time-consuming process of connecting hundreds of feet of fire hoses in order to reach hydrants on other streets. Lovano said having the new line should also save homeowners some money in lower insurance costs.

"The hydrants are really quite a savings when you go to your insurance company," he said.

Lovano has lived in his township home for about 60 years, most of that time with his wife Lee until she died in 2015.

"It’s been a great place to live," he said. "My job moved a few places, like to Youngstown and to the Akron-Canton area. Rather than leave the area ... I drove back and forth because I enjoyed the area so much and my family did. My children enjoyed living here and my wife did, too."

He retired as district manager for Ohio Bell, now AT&T, in 1993, but even without his work with the water district, the zoning commission and the cable consortium, he still keeps busy. He’s active at St. Barnabas Church, gets together with friends almost daily for breakfast and belongs to a golf league.

"I play golf once a week," he said. "I used to play a couple of times a week, but I’ve slowed down a little bit," he said.

In addition, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about five years ago and goes to Bedford Heights to exercise with a group a couple of days a week.

"It really helps me as far as continuing to move ahead and being able to do the things I do," said Lovano.

Lovano said he has no plans right now to slow down and this includes his civic activities.

"As long as I’m healthy and can make the meetings and can do the things I’ve done in the past, I’m going to continue," he said. "If not, that would be the time to hang it up. I’m a widower now and it really helps fill time, too."

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, or @JeffSaunders_RP.