Eaton council approves enviromental covenant

By Braden Moles -

EATON — Council passed a resolution authorizing the execution of an environmental covenant with the Preble County Board of Commissioners and the State Fire Marshal of Ohio during their Monday, July 19 meeting.

After discussion of this issue during June’s meeting, council agreed to table discussion until they could meet with Tony McWhinney, Deputy of Engineering at the Preble County Engineer’s Office, who could provide some more context on the covenant.

“We had a fuel leak on our engineer site in 2003,” he said during the meeting. “We had the issue fixed within the next day, but ever since then, we’ve been doing testing twice a year in the spring and fall to send reports to the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation (BUSTR). We’ve had consultants do those reports for us.”

McWhinney said the annual testing costs the county about $20,000 per year, and the environmental covenant would limit the amount of testing that would need done.

Vice Mayor Dave Kirsch asked if it would be a good or bad thing to limit testing.

“I think we’re safe,” McWhinney said. “The levels are really low. I know there’s one well for sure that they’re still testing on the city parcel, and they’re finding around 0.2 milligrams per liter of benzene, so that’s kind of where we’re at with this. It’s a very small level. I don’t think they would have recommended the covenant if it wasn’t safe to put it in place.”

McWhinney added that while the covenant would permanently be recorded in the Preble County Recorder’s Office, there would be opportunities down the road for further testing, and if traces are below any reported action level, the covenant could be removed.

Councilmember Brad Moore, in response to a question from last month’s meeting, confirmed an existing restrictive covenant was already in place in the property.

“I did confirm that the deed from the United States to the City of Eaton – there’s a restrictive covenant that that land only be used for recreation,” he said. “So, we’re not going to put anything commercial or anything else.”

Mayor Joe Renner said if it weren’t for the existing covenant, he could not vote for the new covenant.

“I don’t know why we would restrict our use of our land, but since it’s already restricted, we know what it’s going to be,” he said .”I think that changes the outlook a little bit, at least for me.”

Council then voted unanimously to approve the covenant.

In other business

Finance Director Stephanie Hurd updated council on the city’s finances at the midway point of the year.

General and Public Safety Revenues were “just shy of $3 million,” an increase of $130,000 from 2020. Income tax revenue came in at over $1.5 million, up 3.6 percent from 2020, while property tax revenue exceeded $350,000, up 21 percent compared to 2020.

Intergovernmental revenue was up 27 percent ($15,000) from last year, and court costs increased, up 41 percent ($78,000) from 2020 in which costs were slightly under $200,000. Revenue for the building department was down 37 percent from 2020, but was still up from 2019 due to projects completed last year, according to Hurd.

Ambulance removal fees were up $38,000 from 2020, just under $200,000. In total, year-to-date revenues increased, while expenses were down $124,000.

“Some of this was because in the previous year, we had expenses for the court grant that we were awarded, and then some of it is a little bit of these expenditures that we were able to pay out of CARES [Act] funding,” Hurd said.

The General and Public Safety Fund Balance is up over $350,000, and the city currently has $1,845,822 in outstanding debt – $1,805,822 allocated to water, and $90,000 to sewer.

Council passed an ordinance to accept the annexation of 8.272 acres of real estate from Washington Township to the City of Eaton. The agreement for the land, located near Lexington Avenue and East Avenue, was signed on Oct. 19, 2020, and the petition for annexation was approved by the Preble County Board of Commissioners during their Friday, April 28 meeting.

Council passed a resolution authorizing the following transfer of funds from the general fund: Public Safety Fund ($200,000), Recreation Fund ($16,250) and Fort St. Clair Fund ($20,000). An ordinance was also passed to adjust appropriations.

Additionally, council moved into executive session “for the purpose of an appointment, promotion and compensation of a public employee.”

The Fire and EMS report for June 2021 shows a combined response of 198 calls for service: 135 EMS responses, including seven second Medic responses; and 63 fire/rescue responses, including five general alarms.

In June, there was one heroin overdose response. There have been nine total responses this year, down from 28 at this time last year.

By Braden Moles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles