NORTON: The issue over who will pay for sewer-system improvements in the city shows no sign of abating, with the council president saying he would sooner “go to jail” than vote to put the issue on another election ballot.
For a second time, petitioners have gathered enough signatures to put a proposed amendment of the city charter before voters. The measure would limit to $5,000 the amount residents can be charged for sewer (or water) line costs. The city would be required to pay any expense that exceeds that amount.
The proposal largely mirrors a ballot issue Norton voters defeated in a special election Aug. 6 and would require another special election within the next few months.
That is, if council approves putting the matter before voters.
“I will go to jail before I would vote to hold a special election on this issue,” council President Don Nicolard said last week. “The voters have already decided against this issue, and I am not going to favor another special election.”
City Law Director Peter Kostoff said a special election would cost the city between $12,000 and $14,000.
On Monday, council will be asked to set a date for a special election, which would come in 60 to 120 days.
For a special election to even be held, however, the council must agree by a two-thirds majority vote — meaning if all members are present and vote, at least by a 5-2 count.
In a vote Sept. 9 on the issue, council members Nicolard, Scott Pelot and Todd Bergstrom opposed holding another election on the sewer issue.
Should council vote against holding a special election on the proposed charter amendment, the petitioners may opt to let the court decide on the date.
“I think that’s what will eventually happen,” Nicolard said.
The needed sewer improvements concern mainly residents of Nash Heights, an area located on the west side of the city.
“Why should the voters of Norton approve such a move?” Pelot asked of residents citywide paying for localized improvements in the sewer system.
“From where do the residents think the city receives its money? The taxpayers, of course,” he said. “That ultimately means that all the residents of Norton would pay for sewer and water lines for those living in Nash Heights.”
The Summit County Board of Elections validated the petitions circulated on the issue, but not in time to meet a deadline to put the issue on the general election ballot, thus requiring a special election.
Opponents of the measure have said that one of their biggest objections is that mandating the city to pay for sewer costs will come at the expense of other city services, such as police.