Board of Control approves decision to apply for environmental grant

Adria Barbour

The city Board of Control Committee approved a decision to submit an application for a grant that would help preserve the water supply near Breakneck Creek with a 5-3 vote at its meeting yesterday.

The due date for the application to be sent in is Friday, City Manager Dave Ruller said.

“We didn’t want to miss the window of opportunity for the grant application,” Ruller said. “Small details can be worked out later. Or, if they can’t, we can pull out later and say we can’t participate.”

The grant, which would award up to $250,000, of which the city of Kent would have to come up with $180,000, is called the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency 319 grant, Service Director Gene Roberts said. It has funds set aside for environmental protection along Breakneck Creek.

The grant would pool money for an easement, which is a set of restrictions put on what a person can do with his or her land. The city of Kent would pay the landowner with the grant to accept an easement on his or her land. This can include not developing on it, because more development increases the likelihood the storm water will be contaminated.

He explained normal storm water is pristine if it comes from undisturbed land, rather than land that has been developed, such as a parking lot with a sewer.

This was always a concern particularly because this is the water people use and drink, Roberts said. This water comes out of a well field adjacent to Breakneck Creek, Roberts said.

Roberts said the grant is a good idea because it is more cost-effective to keep clean water coming to the residents. If it’s not as clean as it could be before it is treated, it costs more in the long run to purify it.

City Councilman Edward Bargerstock expressed reservations before the vote was decided.

Bargerstock said his concern is that the organization isn’t under Kent’s control, yet it is using the city’s money. He didn’t want the conservation to benefit anyone else. He said the council has gotten new information at every meeting, and he felt it was being rushed.

“If our goal is wellhead protection, we should focus on that,” Bargerstock said. “(This project) doesn’t preserve our interests, but the interests of someone else, and we’ve yet to find out who.”

Councilman John Kuhar agreed with Bargerstock.

“We are talking about a lot of city money to protect something that might not need protection,” Kuhar said.

Councilman Rick Hawksley said the council needed to look to the future if the water did happen to get contaminated.

“Look at the city in 50 years if we don’t preserve our water,” he said. “You have to look at it long term.”

There was a discrepancy before with how the easement would be funded, Roberts said. It is funded through two programs, a storm water management plan, which would contribute $90,000, and a wellhead protection, which also would yield $90,000.

The council has to decide which way to fund the easement, Roberts said. One way would be to take 50 percent from both the wellhead protection program and the storm water management plan, or to fund 100 percent out of the storm water management plan.

The council also looked at the option to bring in other entities to help with the cost of funding the easement, Roberts said. The other entities could apply and receive grants of their own, or they could split the cost between them, which would take some of the financial burden off the city.

The issue will be discussed within the next 60 days to decide the best plan to follow. Then the plan will be reported back to city council. Whether the city of Kent and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy will get the grant won’t be announced until later this year, Ruller said.

Contact public affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected].