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Over Residents' Objections, Sanitation District Will Move Forward on Camp Springs Project

Chuck Heilman stood outside the offices of Sanitation District 1 surrounded by nearly a dozen of his Camp Springs neighbors who failed to understand why he voted to move forward a project that they - and even he, at one time - opposed. A member of the SD1 board of directors, Heilman had, moments before, spoken with care about his city, his neighbors, and the project that would eventually run a sewer force main pipe through the historic community, across approximately 59 pieces of private property. 

The neighbors who spoke to him directly outside the SD1 offices had moments earlier expressed their opposition to the project as Heilman cast his vote from the dais. "People sitting down there from Camp Springs are my neighbors," Heilman said, naming some of them and commenting on the beauty of their properties. "All that being said, I was a founding member (of a Camp Springs citizens group opposing the project). We and SD1 have bent over backwards to analyze this every way possible, including alternate routes, even to the point of allowing me to offer another route which was one that gave us more customers and actually took us up to AA Highway. But when it comes down to it though, the route from Silver Grove straight through Camp Springs up through Riley Road is the most efficient, cost-effective way to spend the money of the rate payers of SD1."

"It solves the problem," he said.

The problem being addressed by the construction of the so-called Ash Street Pump Station and force main is sewer overflows in and around Highland Heights and Silver Grove, the latter being hit particularly hard by combined sewer overflows that discharge into a drainage ditch just downstream of a city park and adjacent to a mobile home park. The area also suffers frequently from backwater from the Ohio River and experiences poor drainage even when the river is low, according to reports from SD1. The sewage becomes stagnant and is not carried well enough by Four Mile Creek creating a public health concern for Silver Grove residents.

SD1 officials also argue that the federal consent decree between the utility and the Environmental Protection Agency to be in compliance with U.S. regulations also requires action. Some Camp Springs residents argued during the SD1 board meeting on Tuesday that they have a different interpretation of the decree.

Regardless, by a vote of 4-2, SD1's board of directors opted to pursue bid packages so that potential contractors could submit bids for work that could begin as early as next spring on the nearly $9 million project. Heilman was joined by Robert Horine, Bob Schroder, and Rick Wessels in voting in favor while members Adam Chaney and Gary Richardson opposed the move. Bob Boswell abstained, citing his newness to the board, and Garth Kuhnein was not present.

Acceptance of the project was welcome news for Campbell Co. Judge/Executive Steve Pendery. "This is something that has been with us for five years at least that has involved a lot of heartache on the community and the staff here and myself. These are not easy things to work through," Pendery said. "There is a consent decree out there and it does call for this to be taken care of. The facts on the ground are that tens of millions of gallons of sanitary and storm water overflows out of the ground. The rationale is, we have overflows that need to be dealt with."

Camp Springs resident Tom Ramler said that the project would "tear up our community out there" and disputed the numbers associated with the overflows. "You all need to take a look and make sure that overflow is in the consent decree. The way we see it, it is not," Ramler said. "There is no value of this sewer line running through Camp Springs. Get some real truth in the engineering people. How many gallons does flow through that line over the hill?"

SEE ALSO: SD1's FAQ about the Ash Street project

Resident Tony Vogel gave a presentation in opposition of the project. One of his top concerns was that while the new force main may address the overflow problems in Silver Grove, residents of Camp Springs still won't be connected to the sanitary system.

"There is a pretty cherished piece of history in our community, and that's the Camp Springs issue," Vogel said, arguing that 10,000 visitors make trips to the tiny village tucked in the hillsides of southern Campbell County, taking in weddings at Neltner's Farm or the vineyards or the annual Herbst Tour. "That area from Four Mile up has been inhabited by multiple generations of people who have made sacrifices to keep this place the way it is and while it may not be important to some people, it's critically important to us."

Heilman tried to assuage the concerns of his neighbors by suggesting that the new plans for the project would enable members of the community to connect to the system, offering businesses the opportunity to expand. "Camp Springs prides itself on being a rural community. I was on the planning and zoning board when we made it a special zone. The mixed-rural use is a wonderful opportunity for Camp Springs to expand its agri-tourism," Heilman said. "The opportunity that this line permits is an opportunity that can be utilized in that way."

While the vote may have put an end to the debate, resident said afterwards that the issue was not quite finished. Not only does SD1 still have to negotiate easements with nearly two dozen properties, the residents who made the trek to Ft. Wright on Tuesday said there was still plenty of fight left.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Camp Springs House (by Sydney & Russell Poore via Wiki Commons)