Residents: Proposed Changes to Water Protection Committee Will Stifle Citizens' Voices

Several residents spoke out in opposition of proposed changes to the Source Water Assessment and Protection committee at Monday night's North Canton City Council meeting. Council members tabled the proposed changes until they can speak to more SWAP member


North Canton residents and city council members butted heads as they discussed what can be up for discussion at meetings of the Source Water Assessment and Protection committee.

Council gathered a half hour early Monday night to address residents’ concerns about proposed changes to the SWAP committee meetings. Those proposed changes would give the superintendent of the drinking water treatment plant (a non-voting member of the committee) the responsibility of setting the committee’s meetings.

What it seemed like to the residents, though, was a move to stifle their voices and hinder their right to participate in open government.

SWAP committee member Miriam Baughman spoke before Council that night, saying the water treatment plant superintendent is a non-voting member so as to remove any conflict of interest from the meetings.

“I guess my question is, how can the water treatment plant superintendent take over calling the meetings and making the agenda? … How can he have all that power?” Baughman asked.

The SWAP committee formed, as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, to assist the city in monitoring potential contamination near water production wells. On the committee are three North Canton residents (Baughman, Bob Pattison and Greg Wernet), City Administrator Michael Grimes and Rich Steinhebel, drinking water treatment plant superintendent.

“The agenda of what they discuss at those meetings is really what’s up for discussion and why we are here,” said. “The concern is a committee like this, under the umbrella of the city itself, is not a platform for other outside activities because they don’t take responsibility, or they’re not accountable for what they say.”

We need to make sure they’re discussing exactly what the committee is for.”

agreed with Baughman.

“Explain to me in depth and in detail why this is beneficial to the city and not a threat to the citizenry. Talk about a threat to our water — this kind of mindset is a threat to our citizens. You want them to participate in government, I hope. You want them to show interest, and then you turn around and orchestrate something like this?”

said Council isn’t asking the committee to disband; it only wishes to censor the committee’s agendas to ensure members aren’t speaking on behalf of North Canton.

The committee only should discuss issues relevant to monitoring potential contamination near water production wells and nothing else, Snyder said.

Still, resident Melanie Roll argued that some topics should be up for discussion, such as street sweepings. (The city came under fire for by the Stark County Health Department last year after dumping them on property off Freedom Drive NW in Jackson Township.) Roll said that topic is relevant to discussions of SWAP committee members because the sweepings could affect the safety of the city’s water depending on proximity to water production wells.

“I think you’ve opened a can of worms here by trying to strangle the committee by what they can do and not do and call the agenda and call meetings,” Roll said. “I think you caused your own problem.”

Cerreta moved that Council table the proposed changes until they speak to more committee members. Of the three citizen members, only Baughman showed to the council meeting. One member was sick and another out of the state.

All other members agreed to table the proposed changes for now.

SUEZ January 25, 2012 at 05:26 PM
This is nothing new for North Canton City Council. They have their own agenda, which is not necessarily what is right and/or lawful. This has been going on for years, although I must give Jon Snyder credit for being less of a dictator than his predecessor. The citizens of NC wear rose tinted glasses, and think because the repository doesn't print negative things, all is well within the city. Until something happens that affects them, when they attend a council meeting...reality hits them. Something happens to these people when they take their seats behind that council table, and I agree with Frankie, the time is long overdue to give those seats to different people.
jim January 25, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Unfortunately, in NC we do not have INFORMED voters guiding city hall. The Rep is bias and negligent in not getting more facts in front of the reader such as exact numbers $ come contract time as to what the taxpayer is currently paying for an hour of public employee time and hoe much the new bill will be and so on. The reporting of crime in NC has historically been only what the info keepers feel like dispensing. Mark Cerreta is proving to be exactly what I thought he would be and will likely be on council like Jon Snyder for ever.
Daniel J Peters January 25, 2012 at 08:48 PM
As a member of NC city council, i feel i should address some of the comments. I spoke with Bob Pattison(SWAP committee chairman) over the weekend and heard his concerns. I have also had discussions with Miriam Baughman(SWAP member), and listened to her concerns also. Based on all the information presented to me, i cannot support the legislation as it was presented. I agree with Miriam, Bob, Melanie, and everyone else who expressed their concern. I will not support any attempt to silence the voices of concerned citizens ever! In some of the earlier comments, there were sweeping generalizations made, insinuating that all council members were in favor of the proposed legislation as presented.This is absolutely incorrect. I spoke with a few of the commentors after the meeting, and stated my position to them. I am sure that including me, or other council members that do not favor this proposal, in their comments was just a simple oversight. Anyway, if their is anyone who wants to discuss this, or any other concern you may have, please feel free to contact me anytime. The best way to get me is my cell phone#330-806-0695. Regards, Daniel J Peters, NC city council(Ward 2)
Chuck Osborne January 25, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Mr. Peters, it is gratifying to see someone on North Canton City Council think for themselves and have the fortitude to take a position publicly on an issue. There are seven members of city council for a reason. The citizens of North Canton do not need sheep that are herded. Maybe you will start a trend on city council. Know the issue,think for yourself, and vote accordingly.
jim January 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Was this meeting the one where Marrow and Company was hired to be the law firm for the city vs having a law director (and is this the "Tod" Marrow who was interested in filling a city job some years ago?


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