MOUNT VERNON — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is scheduled to come out and make an assessment for repairs to the Knox Cattleman’s Dam, but some residents in the communities surrounding the dam feel it should still be the city’s project.

They point to a 1999 meeting of the city planning commission and a 2009 letter from ODNR that, in their opinion, indicates the city failed to do their due diligence when approving development around the dam, resulting in a higher risk of loss of life.

Water’s Edge Subdivision resident Bill Tepe did a search of Mount Vernon city public records regarding the dam. He points to the minutes of a Dec. 8, 1999, meeting of the planning commission in which construction of the Crown Hill Condominiums was discussed. The outcome of the meeting was approval of the condos in 2001.

Years later, ODNR would determine the condos were in the flood plain. That led to the classification, and safety level, of the dam being increased.

The dam was built in 1945. It currently is part of the stormwater control system for several subdivisions off Yauger Road; the subdivisions were built around it.

Ownership of the dam, which is considered a privately-owned stormwater system, is in dispute.

Today, the dam needs repairs estimated at $300,000. Initially, the city sought to do the repairs, then bill back the property owners for the cost. The city withdrew from the project after strong push-back from area property owners. Having done so puts the repairs back into ODNR’s court.

Tepe said the city should have recognized the issues that have developed, though he said he feels they did not willfully ignore the impact of building around the dam. However, they had the opportunity to check with ODNR before issuing the permits to build Crown Hill but didn’t, he said.

“They weren’t thinking about it as deeply as they should have,” Tepe said. “They made the same missteps. They should make it right.”

Landings subdivision resident Cloyd Yough agrees.

“A lot of people out here are disappointed with the lack of attention the city gave (the development),” Yough said. “That lack has changed the whole playing field.”

The city potentially identified hundreds of residents who could have been required to pay a share of the expense of dam repairs, based not necessarily on ownership of the dam but whether they benefited from the dam’s role in stormwater management. Discussions by the city of who would be billed involved the nearby subdivisions, and also touched on residents whose properties drained into the Cattleman’s Dam, such as persons living on New Gambier Road.

More than a dozen residents who may have been billed for the dam repairs addressed city council on the issue in public meetings, prior to the city walking away from the project.

ODNR has identified five individual property owners and two homeowner’s associations who could be assessed for repairs.

Yough said the city taking over the dam would save residents money. As a public government entity, they could apply for grants to cover the cost. After repairs are made, Yough said, the city could include the dam in its stormwater control system.

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