Whitewater to get utility lines
WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP -- Earth-shattering change is coming to western Hamilton County. Bulldozers, jackhammers and backhoes will be brought to bear on Harrison Road in Whitewater Township beginning this fall, and crews of workers will leave water and sewer mains in their wake.
These will be among the first county utility lines west of the Great Miami River.
Officials say Hamilton County Engineer William Brayshaw coordinated the utility projects to avoid tearing up roadways twice and minimize disruption to the community.
The far western part of the county is a virtual blank slate for suburbanization and development. County commissioners see it as ripe for the next wave of subdivisions and shopping centers, and as an avenue to keep people who choose to move out of Cincinnati within Hamilton County lines.
"A mixed blessing'
But residents of the area are deeply divided about the future. Some welcome the utilities, growth and big-budget projects, while others who previously fled the city and suburbs for a slower-paced life want things to remain exactly as they are.
"It's a mixed blessing," said Hubert Brown, president of the Whitewater Township trustees. "I don't want to see the township change, but it's going to. . . . So you want to try to direct it and monitor it."
One group of township residents complained this spring that they could not afford new waterlines. So the county commission scaled back the project to a point about 500 feet west of Buena Vista Drive, rather than extending it westward to Miami Whitewater Forest. That brought protests from some neighbors who were suddenly excluded from plans for the city water service.
Developer Jerry Wernke, whose Enterprise Acres subdivision will now be without city water, and resident Dan Vogel are busy surveying their neighbors. They hope that by the end of the week, they will be able to show a majority are in favor of city water service and persuade the commission to again reverse itself.
"I'm very optimistic," Mr. Wernke said. "The commissioners have said they want it. . . . And the percentage of residents for the water is very high -- but it's not as high when you ask if they want to pay for it."
Thomas Schwiers, supervising engineer in program management at the Metropolitan Sewer District, said that so far he has not received any complaints about sewer lines that will be installed under Harrison Road at the same time as the water main.
But residents do not have to pay for the $2.3 million sewer line, part of an overall $10 million project that will carry the pipes eastward, under the Great Miami River to the Taylor Creek treatment plant. For the roughly $1.5 million waterline, property owners are being assessed up to $34 per foot of frontage.
Yet the sewer district won't begin negotiating for easements or digging up residents' property until the second phase of the project. That's when the protests usually come, Mr. Schwiers said.
In the meantime, officials are touting their efforts to coordinate the sewer and water projects, along with work to build up and stabilize the hill north of Miamitown that the mains will pass through.
"We realized that eventually there was going to have to be a (retaining) wall there," said Ted Hubbard, chief deputy county engineer. "But to make it a priority and get it done this year, it was the utilities coming in that precipitated that."
The planning is also part of a regional effort to prepare western Hamilton County for a wave of growth. A task force is considering land use proposals that could either retain the area's rural characteristics, allow urban sprawl or foster community development.
"We want to plan how that area is going to develop over the next few decades. And we want to make sure we have a plan as to how infrastructure is going to be built," Mr. Hubbard said.