MOUNT VERNON — Emery Bennett of 622 N. Sandusky St. aired his laundry in front of City Council on Monday night, showing council members several pieces of clothing spotted by city water. Among the items were a blue towel, now purple, and a sweat shirt, worn one time, that he said is now ruined.
“My concern is the money we lose for the clothes, but my main concern is also for the children,” he said. “We don’t know what causes [the splotching] — 20 or 30 years down the road, are we going to see birth defects?”
Mayor Richard Mavis said all of the tests done thus far have come back negative, including the most recent study, which looked at the pipes in the system. He said Bennett’s clothing samples are similar to what he has seen before.
“We’ve had every chemical analysis, had the EPA look at it, we’ve had extensive studies done, and every time it comes back fine,” said Mavis. “But we’re not finished looking into it.”
Mavis said city officials plan to ask homeowners to allow the city to go into their home and examine their pipes. He said the problem does seem to occur more frequently in the older part of the city.
By a vote of 5 to 2, council passed a resolution annexing 44.178 acres into the city. Owned by Pechiney Plastic Packaging Inc., the land is the site of the former American National Can Co. Council members John Fair and Rebecca Jordan cast the dissenting votes.
Fair said he was concerned that no one knows what it is going to cost to clean up the site.
“The annexation brings it into the city. The next thing would be to clean the site up. I’m reluctant ... — no one knows what the cost to clean up is going to be. There’s no clear-cut cost involved.
“I’m very leery of two corporations leaving the property and not cleaning it up. I wonder what they know that we don’t.”
Jordan also said she does not want the city to be responsible for clean-up costs.
“It sits over an aquifer — what if we start digging and contaminate the aquifer?” she asked.
Councilman Chuck Dice reiterated his query that annexing the land does not commit the city to spend any money on cleanup.
Mavis said it does not. The city has to be the government of jurisdiction before anything can be done, he said; annexing the property into the city satisfies that requirement. The city plans to apply for $400,000 in federal EPA grants for an assessment of the property.
“We know it’s contaminated,” he said. “The $400,000 will allow a complete assessment, so we’ll know where and what it’s contaminated with. At that point we’ll pursue Clean Ohio Funds to actually get the site cleaned up.”
“If we don’t do this,” said councilman Mike Hillier, “it will just sit there as contaminated. We have a chance now to have $400,000 to find out what’s going on, then a chance to apply for funds to clean it up.”
Councilman Burt Hanson said brown fields have been upgraded in other places, and he saw no reason why the same could not be done in Mount Vernon.
“The advantage is if it becomes available for use, that means people will be working there. I see two advantages for a relatively small risk: Jobs will be available, and those jobs will mean income tax for the city. We’re going to know what we are getting into before we lay out any money other than the ostensibly free money,” he said.
In response to Fair’s query as to why not have whoever buys the property clean it up, Hillier said private owners would not have access to the grant money.
In other news, council:
•Passed an ordinance granting a 3 percent raise to administrative positions for the city, including police chief and police captain, and fire chief and assistant fire chief.
•Passed a resolution granting a permanent easement for 1013 W. Chestnut St. In researching a mortgage, it was discovered a garage sits 2 1/2 feet over the property line. Should the garage be torn down, any replacement structure would have to meet current code for setbacks; however, the permanent easement would remain in effect.
•Passed a resolution authorizing supplemental appropriations, including $8,465 to fire and EMS training accounts, and $3,600 to police training accounts. The money comes from Ohio grants.
•Passed a resolution authorizing $4,000 for emergency lighting at The Station Break, discovered during a recent fire inspection.
•Adopted an ordinance making modifications to the codified ordinances.
Mavis asked council to consider the idea of changing the name of the Shade Tree Commission to the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission.
Jordan said at least one report on the water-splotching problem was available online at www.mountvernonohio.org.
Pool passes and gift certificates can be purchased at a discount prior to May 1. It does not look like scholarship money for pool memberships will be available through Knox County Department of Job & Family Services.
Hillier pointed out that without the hard work of those who write grants, the city would not receive that money.
Council adjourned into executive session to discuss personnel. No further action was taken.