George W. Davis
Ohio.com correspondent


GREEN: Mayor Dick Norton responded to resident Joel Helms at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting over Helms’ recent attack of Councilmen David France and John “Skip” Summerville and the rest of City Council.



The mayor voiced objections to a three-page advertisement by Helms in the Suburbanite, the city’s weekly newspaper last week, bashing recent legislation passed by council in compliance with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, concerning enforcement of illicit discharges into the city’s storm water system and streams.



Helms also began circulating a petition to recall France and Summerville for their actions on the Strategic Storm Water Committee, which worked with administration staffers and other jurisdictions that resulted in creation of the Green ordinance passed in December.



“I think it’s fair that our residents understand the truth behind the legislation and the ordinance,” Norton began. He also stated that it is unfair to make misrepresentations of the facts because someone disagrees with legislation.



Norton had Law Director Stephen Pruneski “debunk” what he charged are the myths about the legislation under fire by Helms.



Pruneski said the Ohio EPA made recommendations during an audit, including adding city enforcement when illicit discharges occur because someone’s septic system fails and effluent is flowing into a storm sewer, steam or storm water rights of way in the city.



He said the legislation mirrors that of the Summit County Health District and includes portions of legislation passed by the city of Solon and the Chagrin River Watershed Partners.



The ordinance gives the city the power to pursue correction of a problem following county inspection and its rules and regulations, which have been in place since 2008.



Pruneski said there was never some threat that the city was subject to a multi-million-dollar fine, and it never made any septic system and water softener in the community illegal as alleged by Helms.



Pruneski cited a series of long-standing litigation against the Helms family for how they handle such laws and don’t comply.



He said the Helms family, who owns a 34-unit apartment complex on Massillon Road, were fined almost $4 million in a judgment by the OEPA, and that all appeals have been rejected. He added that the court ruled the judgment could be reduced to only a $124,000 fine if they would connect an apartment complex co-owned by Helms to both city sewer and water within the allotted time.



“So now there is a multi-million-dollar judgment against the family for doing the same types of things that this legislation is designed to prevent,” Pruneski said.



Norton then voiced support for Planning Director Michael Wiethe and all who worked to create the legislation.



He added, “Can you understand the value of keeping your neighborhood safe from disease and illicit discharge?



“What kind of community would you want to live in who had a mayor and council who wouldn’t protect people from those kinds of [problems]. We have an obligation to do that.”



Norton added that France, who is in his 16th year on council, “has served flawlessly. He doesn’t need a recall, he needs a trophy.”



In supporting both France and Summerville, Norton said, “The notion of a recall is insanity and ridiculous.”



He urged citizens not to sign any recall petition, adding that when you don’t like something you don’t have a right to take pot shots.



Helms, who said he didn’t know the mayor was going to speak out at the council meeting, challenged the issue “that I am lying” in the ad.



“If you think I have made a wrong accusation, I can show you documentation in that law that makes every statement I’ve made outside the law.



“Read it yourself and make you own determination on whether I have misrepresented it. I don’t think I have,” Helms said. “And I would like somebody to show me where I have misrepresented it and no one has.”



He also said that instead of a recall petition, he plans to seek out a judge who will make a determination of whether there were any violations in creating the ordinance.



Helms said, “We cannot have a recall in the city of Green because the Board of Elections has a live record, but no archival record of how many Green residents voted in the 2009 election. If we were to get 1,000 valid signatures for recall, they’d say, ‘prove it’ and we can’t prove it.”