Commissioners approved the preliminary engineer's report on the Wolf Creek ditch and granted the petition and instructed the county engineer to prepare a full report in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code at a special ditch hearing Monday morning.
Citizens spoke for and against the petition to clean the main channel of Wolf Creek. The project is to cost the county's General Fund about $225,000.
"I find that the project is necessary," Commissioner Jeff Wagner read from engineer Mark Zimmerman's preliminary report. "Benefits outweigh the cost of the proposed improvement and that it is in the public interest to grant the prayer of the petition."
The petition was filed with commissioners last May, they held a viewing July 30 and had the first hearing Sept. 18.
"To simply dismiss the petition as some would like at this point, to me, is contrary to the law, if the three criteria (referenced by Zimmerman) are met," Wagner said.
Unlike Wagner, who said he had no preconceived notion to vote to go forward with the project or not, commissioner Dave Sauber said he initially was against the project because of the high cost.
He said after talking with the mayor of Bettsville and seeing flooding conditions there, he saw the importance of the project.
Commissioner Ben Nutter said funding for the study is to come out of the General Fund and will not be recouped if the project does not go forward.
Wagner said payment for the creek project is to be weighted - the more a landowner benefits from it, the more that person will pay.
Kevin Williams, of Sycamore, said Zimmerman provided "no fact and no figure" of the benefits, and assumed that "blank exceeds $225,000."
"If the county engineer wants to put a quarter of a million dollars down on a hunch and play the bet, he's certainly free to do that with his money," Williams said. "But when you take other people's money and take other people's property and use of their property against their will, you better do better than 'blank.'"
Nutter said commissioners trust Zimmerman's opinion.
"(Zimmerman) is a duly elected, professionally trained engineer," Nutter said. "His opinion is considered 'expert' to me and the other commissioners, and that's what counts. To minimize his opinion because you don't like it, is not going to happen."
Another concern with the creek cleaning project is determining whose property is in the watershed and whose water does not drain into Wolf Creek.
Wagner said Zimmerman's final report will identify which properties are not draining into the creek, and these people will not pay for the project.
Wagner also suggested work should be done in stages, spread out for a few years, with the worst areas being cleaned first. He said in this way, the county would not have to front as much money.
If the project moves forward, by law the ditch is to be regularly maintained, Nutter said.
Zimmerman is to provide commissioners with the final report at the third and final hearing July 16. The date is subject to change, if the report is not completed.