CLINTON: Matt Steiner is blunt when asked if village residents want sanitary sewers in the small community.
“We don’t want it,” said Steiner, who lives at Luna Lake and is a village councilman. “We need it.”
He and others are thrilled — for economic development and public health reasons — that the Summit County Department of Environmental Services is pushing forward with plans to start installing sanitary sewers in the village in 2014.
It’s part of a larger plan to bring sewers over the next two decades to the southwest portion of the county, which has areas plagued with older, and in some cases, failing septic systems.
The top priority is Clinton, where county officials estimate there are at least 325 failed septic systems. Next up will be the state Route 93 corridor in New Franklin.
“We can see there was tremendous need in these ... areas to solve the problems of failing septic systems,” said David Marquard, director of the county environmental services department. “Our effort was one of trying to correct the environment, so to speak. It’s not: Build sewers for economic development so much as, let’s get sewers in to prevent the pollution.”
The county will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to update Clinton residents and answer questions about the project. The meeting will be at the Village Hall, 7871 Main St.
County leaders also will show the proposed sewer lines and talk about the vacuum system. The county is working on a deal so the waste is treated by Canal Fulton.
The biggest question — how much will this cost individual property owners? — will go unanswered.
Marquard and Deputy Director Michael Weant declined even to estimate an amount, saying detailed design work needs to be done first to determine the overall cost of the project. That won’t be available until at least late next year.
Many village residents know the sewers will be costly but still are supportive.
“We ain’t gonna grow if we don’t get it, that’s for sure,” said Edwin Dreurey, a retired homeowner.
With only about 1,200 residents, Clinton is one of the smallest communities in Summit County. Village officials and many residents agree their town slowly is dying without public utilities.
The downtown business district — small by even small-town standards — is filled with empty buildings. The problem is that potential business owners and homeowners are hamstrung by modern environmental regulations.
Many lots are too small to support the required septic systems, making it difficult to start or expand a business, or add on to a home.
“We have a couple of options,” Mayor Al Knack said. “We can bring sewers to Clinton, and that will open up a lot of different scenarios and will make the [Environmental Protection Agency] and health department happy. We can grow.
“If we don’t have it, we put the heavy tax burden on the residents. It’s just that simple.”
Jan Guy, owner of the Clinton True Value hardware store, said the village needs more businesses, and the sanitary sewers could help attract them. But she’s wary about how much it will cost her, and she knows that her customers, many of whom are low-income, won’t support a large assessment.
“We are a small business and there’s not a big customer base,” Guy said.
“It’s a struggle to stay alive here.”
County leaders understand that concern. If the individual assessments are oppressive, Weant said the county would re-evaluate the project and look for ways to offset that cost.
That could entail seeking grants, the county kicking in some money and/or offering zero percent loans.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.