GREEN: A fight over tougher water standards in Green has led one of the owners of an apartment complex to begin an effort to unseat a long-term council member.
The legal wrangling over the quality of drinking water from two wells and the discharge of some sanitary waste into a wetland at the Countryview South Apartments has been simmering for more than a decade.
In 2009, the owners of the 34-unit apartment complex on Massillion Road were fined almost $4 million.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Robert M. Gippin offered to suspend all but about $115,000 in fines and fees as long as the owners complied with state laws and addressed problems at the complex.
State officials say the apartment complex has complied with drinking water orders but has not yet fully satisfied the sewage requirements.
City Council weighed in last fall and passed legislation in late November that would prohibit improper discharges into the city’s storm sewers.
The legislation angered Joel Helms, part-owner of the apartment complex.
Helms paid for a three-page ad in the Jan. 13 edition of the Suburbanite, a weekly newspaper, taking issue with council’s vote.
In the advertisement, Helms takes aim at Council President David France. He also calls the new restrictions so far-reaching that they could also lead to a ban on water softeners and septic systems in the city.
“At no time did David France promote public involvement and participation related to developing, implementing and reviewing storm water management for the city of Green as required by law,” the advertisement reads.
Helms also called for a recall of France from office.
City officials defend the legislation. They say it was written at the urging of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and gives the city the authority to enforce improper discharges into the city’s storm sewers.
France, who has represented Ward 2 for 16 of the 20 years Green has been a city, takes exception to Helms’ assertions.
He, along with others, says the legislation does not prohibit residential water softeners or properly functioning septic systems.
France said the council took its time passing the legislation. He said it even waited an additional two weeks before the final vote to allow time for Helms, the only person to speak to council against the ordinance, time to talk to City Law Director Stephen J. Pruneski.
“We decided not to go forward after the third reading because Mr. Helms was concerned with the verbiage,” France said. “We told him he needed to seek out the law director.
“He did not do that.”
Helms’ legal wrangling with the city goes back to 1998, according to court documents. Helms was not available for comment.
The issue is one of health and safety, said Wayne Wiethe, director of the city’s planning and development department.
Wiethe said discharge from improperly working septic systems, discarded motor oil, paint and solvents can eventually make their way into the drinking water system and cause air pollution.
“If I was living next to you and it was impacting you, you would want us to act on your behalf,” said Wiethe.
France said council was acting responsibly by approving the legislation in compliance with the OEPA’s request.
“If you don’t stay up with standards, down the road, you will regret it,” France said.
Beacon Journal reporter Bob Downing contributed to this story. Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.