PDT Staff Writer
Despite advice to the contrary, several members of Portsmouth City Council may attend a meeting to see and learn about a water collection system installed by Larry Essman, a resident of Grandview Avenue.
Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan said last week he was sending out a notice telling 63 residents on Grandview Avenue to disconnect their downspouts from the city’s sanitary sewer lines or to make other sewer repairs on their property. That order drew a response from Essman in which he invited Portsmouth City Council members to come out and see the system he had installed to deal with the issue. A series of emails followed.
“I have found the photos we took when the city paved over top of the sewer in front of our home on the north side of our driveway. The opening was reduced to less than 2 inches and the runnoff simply overwhelmed the sewer. Note that there was no ‘catch basin’ referred to by Duncan at that time. Mike Shaw had the catch basin installed immediately after the runnoff went down our driveway and into our basement windows. Thankfully it was clean surface water. To connect to the newly installed catch basin, our driveway would have to be torn up and repaved, a very expensive endeavor. I would suspect others might face similar problems. Mike Shaw made every effort to help resolve our problem and he would be a good source of information about the fiasco that occurred. It is just not as simple as Mr. Duncan presents it.”
Essman explained that he installed a water collection system that is an affordable solution and provides rainwater to his garden, inviting inspection by Council members. He also questioned the legitimacy of the disconnect notice via the email.
“…Also, if this is a city ordinance should not all homeowners be required to disconnect from the sanitary sewer, not just those in the Grandview, Shawnee, and 25th street area? This looks an awful lot like retribution. While I have no legal action pending against the city, I know others are still pursuing legal remedies,” Essman said.
Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones responded to City Council members - “The City is currently involved in several lawsuits with residents in the Grandview area and we are working closely with Federal and State EPA officials to properly address the issues. I strongly advise against Public officials meeting with any residents at this time due to the litigation that is pending and involving the media at this time without the consent of the EPA officials is likewise strongly discouraged and NOT recommended at this time. The City has recently had many productive discussions with State and Federal EPA officials and something like this could jeopardize the positive steps the City has made. In my opinion, council is overstepping its boundaries with such a meeting, not to mention any issues with the ‘open meetings’ laws in the State of Ohio that may arise.”
Kevin Johnson sent out an email response to Essman Aug. 30, 2012, that read -“I am hesitant, though not at all reluctant, to visit on my own in response to your invitation to tour this site and see for myself, and listen to, the issues facing those on Grandview and the surrounding area. By copy of this email I am asking our City Clerk, Tamara Nathan, to perhaps coordinate and schedule a convenient time at which members of Council, the Mayor and Mr. Duncan may tour the area with you. And I do not want to hear finger pointing by anyone. I am interested in understanding and working towards amicable and logical resolutions.”
Johnson suggested the meeting be scheduled for Sept. 15.
Portsmouth City Clerk Tamara Nathan sent an email to all Council members.
“In response to the request by Councilman Johnson to schedule a time to tour Mr. Essman’s property (the Grandview area), I will need some input from each of you.
“Do you want to do a early evening or Saturday tour to allow for more members to attend? What information would you like gathered before hand: smoke testing guidelines, individual reports of each home, alternatives for home owners, or any other information pertaining to the Downspout disconnections including but not limited to a City wide schedule? Would you like the media invited to this tour?”
Nathan concluded by asking for expedited feedback in order to schedule a visit early next week.
Thursday morning Johnson emailed - “I look forward to seeing you on Sept. 15 @ 10:00AM, Larry. Please take care of yourself; and be well.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com