Norton voters on Tuesday rejected a change to the city charter that would have capped a resident’s cost for sewer assessments.
The city would have paid the cost of work that exceeded $5,000 per household.
Unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections showed 1,627 votes against the charter change and 1,266 in favor.
The turnout was more than 600 voters fewer than when Norton held a special election in August on essentially the same proposal. That measure failed by only 117 votes.
“I don’t know that the interest is there,” Joe Masich, director of the Summit County Board of Elections, said Tuesday morning as he indicated that fewer absentee ballots were cast for this election than in August.
Tuesday’s ballot measure and the similar issue in August came in direct response to an Ohio Environmental Agency mandate that homeowners in the city’s Nash Heights neighborhood replace their septic systems with a sewer tie-in. Failing systems are polluting groundwater, the EPA has determined, and repairs would be insufficient to remedy the problem.
The ballot measure also would include residents from the rest of the city who already paid for sewers. When a similar measure was on the ballot in August, opponents argued that it would be unfair to pass on Nash Heights sewer expenses to residents elsewhere who already have paid for sewers.
The $8 million Nash Heights sewer project would involve more than 200 homes.
Nash Heights residents have complained that the EPA-mandated sewer project will be too expensive and force many of them to leave their homes.
The city administration and the current council point out that the area has been declared a public nuisance because of effluent flowing from failing septic tanks. Exposure to E. coli and other bacteria can be a health hazard to people and pets.
City officials have said that limiting the homeowners’ costs would damage city finances that already are stressed.
Council President Don Nicolard questioned the constitutionality of the initiative and had said he would seek to block it through legal means.
Nicolard and three other ward councilmen were replaced in the November election, however, and their challengers have promised a more sympathetic look at residents’ sewer costs.
The new council takes over Jan. 2.