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The city will receive help from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District for its stormwater projects.
Council Feb. 7 approved the Regional Stormwater Management Program Service Agreement between the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and the city of Hudson with a 5 to 1 vote.
Council member Alex Kelemen voted no on the agreement. The other five Council members approved the agreement. William Wooldredge was absent.
"I'm concerned about a partnership based on a lawsuit," Kelemen said. "My concerns are what could happen in the future. Their ability to add oversight."
Kelemen said he was concerned their role would not stop with advice, especially in the future projects at the former Youth Development Center on Hines Hill Road and the Downtown Phase II development.
"It [the projects] falls under their jurisdiction," Kelemen said.
Kelemen said a 1971 law created for stormwater and sewer systems needs updated and the state needs to change the laws. He said he would work with state legislation to change the law. He asked Council members to wait a year for him to seek changes. If he failed, they could come back to the agreement.
Council member Beth Bigham offered to help with any legislative efforts but said it was logical to move forward at this time.
"Alex is raising concerns we have," said Council President Hal DeSaussure. "The best agreements don't come out of lawsuits, but we settled and if we don't sign on, we lose the funds."
Stormwater is a regional issue and NEORSD will work on this issue, DeSaussure said.
"I fear a large bureaucracy but we can't get out," he said.
DeSuassure urged others to vote for it but also to look at legislative alternatives. Council member Dennis Hanink said he had some reservations about the agreement but would vote for it.
"We would be in a better position to influence the procedure if we are part of the family instead of outsiders," Hanink said.
He said NEORSD would contribute funding to the Brandywine Watershed expenses.
"I'm paying their fee, and I don't want to lose 25 percent being returned to the community," Hanink said.
He said Council should work with state legislators.
Like Hanink, Council member Dan Williams said he would "hold his nose and vote for it."
Williams said the city had an out clause in the agreement if NEORSD became onerous in their oversight.
"I'd hate to give up the 25 percent of the fees if we get out of the agreement," Williams said.
Council member Casey Weinstein said he was a proponent of regionalism and supported the agreement.
"It brings funds directly back to Hudson and keeps our Lake [Erie] clean," Weinstein said.
"It's easier to change from inside," said Mayor David Basil. "Watersheds cross city lines. That's a regional issue."
In 2010 NEORSD implemented a $4 to $8 monthly stormwater fee on its customers to help pay for more than $220 million in stormwater projects. The fee impacted 2,178 residential customers and 214 commercial customers in Northwest and downtown Hudson.
NEORSD has an annual budget of approximately $41 million for stormwater.
Hudson and other communities appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals in the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County regarding the authority of NEORSD to manage stormwater and charge a fee but Hudson, Macedonia, Northfield Village, Richfield Village and Sagamore Hills township approved a settlement agreement with NEORSD in 2012. They agreed to the stormwater fee, averaging $15.15 per quarter for the NEORSD homeowner, with a portion of the money collected to be used on projects in their communities as part of a Community Cost-Share Program.
The fees were put on hold until a lawsuit by other NEORSD communities was ruled on by the Supreme Court of Ohio in September 2015, Webb said. The program was implemented in January 2016, and fees began to appear on customer bills in July 2016.
Because of the Community Cost-Share program, 25 percent of annual stormwater fees collected from Hudson residents could go toward projects in Hudson, which is projected to have $110,000 available per year.
The city must propose a project and apply for funding to NEORSD to receive them.