MILLWOOD — The Knox County Commissioners met greater opposition to the Millwood sewer system project from property owners along U. S. 36 between Millwood and Howard. Funding to help pay design and installation costs are available for projects connecting to existing sewer infrastructures, so the Millwood system has been designed to be attached to the existing one in Howard, three miles west.
The commissioners found the least legally complicated path to connect the two systems is to follow the abandoned railroad bed between the two communities. They approached the railroad company, which still owns the land even though it has not been an active line in over 20 years, but the company demanded a lot of conditions on the sale of the property in order to limit any liability issues that might arise in the future. According to Commissioner Allen Stockberger, the railroad wanted the county to agree to not let anyone build upon the old railroad right of way.
“Some people already have,” Stockberger said. “We’d automatically be in violation of the agreement if we did that.”
Due to those stipulations, the commissioners are opting to acquire the disused railroad bed by the process of imminent domain. This would allow the county to run the sewer anywhere within the railroad’s right of way, which is about 30 feet wide. In the case of properties owned by Carolin Hahnemann and Kevin McDonald on U.S. 36, that is a swath right through their properties.
“We want to do this so there isn’t a negative impact,” said civil engineer Jeff Carr of ADR & Associates as he, the commissioners, and a number of residents and property owners discussed the project in Hahnemann’s driveway.
“It will have a negative impact,” said McDonald.
“We’re trying to put it where you want it,” said Commissioner Robert Wise.
“We don’t want it,” replied McDonald.
McDonald’s wife, Della, said they purchased the property because of the 150-year-old trees, eagles and the adjacent Kokosing River. They were very concerned that the sewer line project would upset these elements.
“You’re going to have a hell of a fight on your hands if you try to put this here,” Kevin McDonald said.
Although not outright opposing the plan, Hahnemann is concerned about its potential impact. She pointed out breaks and breaches in the retaining wall installed by either the Ohio Department of Transportation or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the Kokosing River from eroding away the roadbed of U.S. 36 at the narrow neck of land between Hahnemann’s and McDonald’s properties, which is a spot the sewer line would have to run through.
Hahnemann said the river was undermining the retaining wall, causing part of the bank to slump. She said that for two years she’s been unable to get any officials to do anything about it. If that’s the level of attention things will receive, Hahnemann asked, what would prevent the line from being broken and dumping raw sewage into the Kokosing?
Commissioner Allen Stockberger said he thought the Ohio Department of Transportation and county officials working together would have good motivation to keep an eye on the spot, as it would cost far less to maintain it than to repair or rebuild a collapse or break.
Hahnemann was also concerned about the proximity of the sewer line to her well head.
“You trust that water pipe to keep out the river, bacteria, and impurities,” said Commissioner Robert Wise. “Well, this sewer pipe is going to be sturdier than that.”
Hahnemann and Carr plan to review maps to settle questions about the exact placement of property lines and the railroad bed right of way through her property. She also asked the commissioners to hold a meeting with all of the property owners and residents along the railroad line who might have concerns. She said none of them were notified of the previous public meeting, and that some of them first found out about the project when engineers came walking through their properties.
Mark and Craig Gilmore asked questions about the exact placement of the proposed line through their properties, which include Kokosing Valley Camp and Canoe. These questions arose because the proposed sewer main would depart from the railroad easement there in order to avoid going right through the campground, which would have trouble being open for business with lines being trenched through it by heavy equipment.
The Gilmores also had questions about the electric lines which would need to be run to power the lift station pumps which would push effluent from their location to Howard. Craig Gilmore, who now runs the campground, expressed reservations about having more electric lines on poles running toward the campground, noting that his customers came to his facility to get away from such things.
Another question was one of involvement.
“Does the installation of this line mean that a time is coming when he [Mark Gilmore] will be forced to hook up to this system?” Craig Gilmore asked.
Carr answered that installation of the line would indeed make it so. The project can only be paid for, Carr said, if all of the potential customers along the line are required to participate. He advised Gilmore to ask for an in-kind exchange, giving the county an easement for the sewer line in exchange for the county paying for the trenching to connect his house to the system. That would not, however, address the monthly fee charged to customers.
The commissioners said a meeting for Millwood residents and those along U.S. 36 affected by the sewer line project would be held in January.