Summit County has experienced a deluge of flooding in recent months that’s shut down streets, caused roads to buckle and destroyed basements, possessions and businesses.
But it’s an issue that has persisted for decades, with few regional responses to what multiple local officials have deemed a regional issue.
Summit County Council is considering legislation that would create a countywide group to address stormwater issues in communities across the county and search for solutions for the county’s persistent flooding issues.
Currently, each of the county's 31 cities, townships and villages do something different when it comes to stormwater management. Many charge their residents a monthly stormwater utility fee, with many of the communities in the northern part of the county part of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
The proposed group, called the County of Summit Stormwater Management Committee, would focus on a countywide approach to stormwater management.
The group would review existing stormwater management programs and practices for the county, plus the county’s cities, villages and townships; along with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, two other entities addressing stormwater management at the local level.
The committee would deliberate until the end of next year, when a report with recommendations would be due. The report would include the best methods to create a county stormwater management program designed to drain 300 acres or more.
Member communities would at a minimum include the communities subject to the jurisdiction for stormwater purposes of the NEORSD and at a maximum all of the communities in the county.
The report would also need to include a proposed funding stream to support staff to carry out the program and a capital improvement and maintenance program, along with either a proposed stormwater master plan for all watersheds in the county or a proposal to develop a stormwater master plan.
Members, appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the county council, would include a county council member, the county engineer, the county executive, a representative of a Summit County township, a representative of a Summit County municipality and two representatives with extensive knowledge of stormwater management.
Council District 7 representative Bethany McKenney, who represents communities in the southern part of the county, and District 1 representative Ron Koehler, who represents communities in the north, each said they want their areas of the county represented on the committee.
McKenney called the group "urgent for southern Summit, which was hardest hit in the June rains,” while Koehler said “the north has had some pretty bad flooding problems, too."
The county's most recent stormwater plan is the Summit County Engineer's Office's Surface Water Management District, which the county council approved in 2017 to alleviate runoff and flooding issues.
The program is voluntary, so communities have to opt into it. The only community that’s opted in so far is Bath Township, with township residents paying $4 a month.
A separate potential stormwater plan is the proposed Yellow Creek Conservancy District.
If the district were created, residents in the 32-square-mile Yellow Creek watershed — about 9,600 parcels — would pay an assessment to cover the costs of projects addressing stormwater issues, with public meetings and a three-person board appointed by a judge to oversee the district’s actions.
More than two years after a petition with signatures of residents living in the watershed was submitted to Summit County Common Pleas Court, its supporters and opponents are still awaiting a judge’s decision on whether or not the conservancy district will be established.
Several of the municipalities that fall in the watershed and the group Citizens for Yellow Creek oppose the district’s creation, while its primary proponent is the nonprofit Yellow Creek Foundation.
Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.