November 21, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
24°F

Medina County, Brunswick settle water dispute

BRUNSWICK HILLS TWP. — About 70 homes may be able to get water service and remain in the township because of a deal between the county and Brunswick, ending a decades-long dispute.

The homes are in the area of Memory Lane and Jeanette Street near Grafton Road. Homeowners would be charged a $500 tower fee to tap into the city’s water system. Previously, they were not able to tap into the system, which is owned by Cleveland Water, unless they were annexed to the city.

“This is great news for families in the area who, for decades, have had to rely on wells for their water. Many have experienced problems with those wells, including water quality and availability,” Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said in a statement. “This is something that these residents have sought for many years.”

Jeanette Street resident Ron Zak, owner of Zak Supply Co., said he used to serve on the township’s water board and is still using well water.

“Nobody wants to annex to the city” due to politics, he said. “We tried to secure our own water, and that didn’t work out too well.”

He said while he has no complaints about his system, he probably will tap into the city system if it becomes available.

“I think that would be beneficial for people who have wells,” Zak said. “There’s always maintenance on the wells. It would be a good idea for most residents.”

The county and township will set up a meeting with residents to inform them about the process of getting Cleveland Water.

If residents and the township are interested, the Medina County Sanitary Engineer’s Office would coordinate the project. Residents would be assessed for the cost to build the lines, in addition to paying Brunswick the $500 tower fee.

The discussions about water service in the area date to the 1970s, when Brunswick filed a suit against the county. Court records show the city wanted to ensure it would recoup costs from any water infrastructure it built.

A 1977 journal entry in the case found, among other things, that certain properties outside Brunswick city limits would be required to pay a $500 water tower fee to the city for residential users who tap into Brunswick’s system.

It also outlined certain areas — including the Jeannette and Memory neighborhood — that would have to annex to the city in order to receive water.

The county filed a motion to vacate that entry in 2009. The motion claimed that because the water system was sold to the city of Cleveland in 2005, the tower fees no longer were needed and the journal entry was void.

“To keep the judgment order in effect at this time is unjust, burdensome, and inequitable,” Holman wrote in the motion. He added the journal entry forced the county “to deal with an entity that no longer has control of the water works system.”

However, Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler ruled the journal entry was still valid and the county should be held to the entry’s findings since they were based on a settlement the county approved.

The county appealed Kimbler’s ruling last year.

However, the new agreement between the city and the county ends the appeal. The compromise states the 1977 journal entry is applicable, but modifies it to allow the Memory/Jeanette neighborhood to get service without annexation.

“It’s not perfect. It’s not the best,” County Commissioner Steve Hambley said of the deal. “I think we made the best of an imperfect situation.”

He said he recently spoke with a realtor who had problems selling a house in the Memory/Jeanette neighborhood because it didn’t have water service.

“At this point, she knows that there will be people over there that will certainly be interested in getting the water,” he said.

Reporter Jennifer Pignolet contributed to this story.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.