Council considers how to address noncompliance with program

SIDNEY — As it conducts the second year of a program to reduce stormwater flows into the sanitary sewer system, the city of Sidney must decide what to do about properties inspected during the first year that have not complied with program requirements.

The program, conducted by the city’s new Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) Division, requires an inspection within one year of notification by the city to verify that no I&I is contributing to the public sewer system. The program was established in connection with the city’s major project to improve the wastewater treatment plant. The improvements are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The city was able to reduce the cost of the plant improvements by establishing the I&I program.

Gary Clough, assistant city manager/public works director, told City Council Monday night that inspections for the homes in first year of the program were all to be completed by April 30. About 30 homes have not completed the inspection or have not made arrangements with the city to have them completed.

Based on the city’s agreement with the OEPA, the city must continue to require these inspections and must move forward with action for the homes that have not complied with the requirement, Clough said.

Clough presented several options, provided by the city attorney, for addressing this problem: initiating criminal complaints in Sidney Municipal Court similar to the way unpaid taxes and code violations are handled; initiating civil actions in Shelby County Common Pleas Court, seeking an order requiring the affected homeowners to perform the inspections; the city performs the inspections and assesses the cost to the affected property for collection on the owners’ real estate tax bills; and creating a local funding mechanism to provide cash assistance to those who are financially unable to pay the cost of the inspection.

Clough and city Law Director Jeff Amick discussed the pros and cons of each option with council.

Mayor Mike Barhorst asked for a breakdown of the 30 homes regarding whether they are owner-occupied or rentals. Clough said he would get that information. Barhorst said council would decide what action to pursue at its July 27 meeting.

In other business at its monthly workshop session, council discussed a proposed change in the way it conducts meetings. Council is considering using a “consent agenda.” Amick said consent agendas are becoming more popular because they help streamline meetings and allow members to focus on substantive issues. A consent agenda groups the routine, procedural, informational and self-explanatory noncontroversial items typically found in an agenda. These items are then presented to council in a single motion for an up-or-down vote after allowing any council member to request that a specific item be moved to the full agenda for individual attention.

Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan was concerned a consent agenda “might be confusing to the people in the audience” who might want to comment on an issue.

Amick said council members could ask that items be removed from the consent agenda if they believe the items merit further discussion.

Council Clerk Kari Egbert, who had experience with the consent agenda at a previous job, said the “learning curve” in using the consent agenda involved council members rather than the public.

Barhorst pointed out that council’s meetings typically are already brief, but he asked members to consider the consent agenda idea and asked that it be put on the agenda again next month.

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