Columbus (September 15, 2015) – Today, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with an Amicus Curiae brief filed by the Coalition of Ohio Regional Districts (CORD) and ruled in favor of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s appeal concerning the Regional Stormwater Management Program. The Sewer District, under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 and its founding charter, is not only authorized to manage stormwater, but impose a fee for that purpose. CORD argued in its brief that the District and two other existing storm water districts have complete authority under the Ohio Revised Code to manage stormwater and to collect a charge. The decision will allow those district to continue addressing storm water problems in their communities and is expected to result in other areas considering the regional district concept as an ideal means of addressing storm water management on a local or regional basis.
The Regional Stormwater Management Program is designed to address flooding, streambank erosion and water quality issues throughout much of Northeast Ohio.
“This is a great victory for the region. Stormwater is causing damage and inter-community flooding problems, and we can now tackle this growing problem with a regional solution.” – Darnell Brown, President, NEORSD Board of Trustees
On legislative matters, CORD will be working with Governmental Policy Group (GPG), a lobbying firm in Columbus. GPG is an experienced and well respected firm which represents numerous clients.
Click HERE to visit the GPG website and learn more.
Proposition of Law No. 1: “A district formed pursuant to [Ohio Revised Code] Chapter 6119 is authorized to manage stormwater which is not combined with sewage, and to impose a charge for that purpose. Such a charge is one ‘for the use or service of a water resource project or any benefit conferred thereby.’”
Proposition of Law No. 2: “When a Petition and Plan of Operations grant a [Ohio Revised Code] Chapter 6119 district the authority to operate storm water handling facilities, that District is authorized to create and implement a regional stormwater management program, including imposing appropriate charges to operate that program.”
Ruling in favor of the Sewer District were Justices Paul E. Pfeiffer, Judith Ann Lanzinger, William M. O’Neill and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Terrence O’Donnell dissented. Justice Judith L. French concurred in part and dissented in part.
“There are many sound policy reasons to support or oppose the creation of the Sewer District’s regional stormwater-management program and its attendant fee structure. In our view, the statute plainly indicates that ‘waste water’ comes in two forms. One is ‘any storm water.’ The other is ‘any water containing sewage or industrial waste or other pollutants or contaminants derived from the prior use of the water.’ There is no other plausible reading of the definition.” – Justice Pfeiffer
“We are pleased with the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision and the statewide impact it has for other similarly-governed agencies across the state. The Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals’ prior ruling jeopardized stormwater programs throughout Ohio and now, without a doubt, we can continue to address large-scale stormwater problems on a regional basis.” – Marlene Sundheimer, Chief Legal Officer
The prior court’s ruling suspended the Sewer District’s program, effectively terminating construction projects and maintenance work. All billing was suspended and collected funds were placed into escrow. Although the Sewer District will re-start the Regional Stormwater Management Program, a specific date – either for re-mobilize construction projects or resuming billing – has not yet been established.
“There is a tremendous amount of work required to resurrect this vital program. $20 million in fees was collected before the program was suspended and we will work diligently to prioritize projects and resolve regional flooding and erosion problems.” – Frank Greenland, Director of Watershed Programs
January 7, 2010: The Sewer District filed the initial complaint for declaratory judgment, the same day the Sewer District’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to adopt Title V, the section of the Sewer District’s Code of Regulations that details the Regional Stormwater Management Program. This court action asked the court to confirm the Sewer District’s authority to establish a stormwater utility.
April 21, 2011: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas J. Pokorny issued his first opinion in the case of Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District vs. Bath Township, Ohio, et al. (CV-10-714945). In this decision, Judge Pokorny ruled that Chapter 6119 of the Ohio Revised Code gave the Sewer District the authority to implement most of the Regional Stormwater Management Program. He also ruled that consent of member communities to participate in the program is not required.
February 15, 2012: After a lengthy trial, Judge Pokorny issued his second opinion in the case. In this ruling, he ruled that the Sewer District’s Stormwater Management Program fee is authorized under Chapter 6119 of the Ohio Revised Code; the charges proposed are ruled a fee, and not a tax as the Defendants argued.
June 28, 2012: Judge Pokorny issued his third and final opinion in the case. This final ruling acknowledged several recommended program changes the Sewer District made – most notably an increase to the Community Cost-Share Program to benefit member communities – by recommendation of the Judge.
September 26, 2013: The Court of Appeals reversed Judge Pokorny’s decisions, finding that the agency does not have the authority under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 – or its charter – to implement the Regional Stormwater Management Program under Title V or collect the associated stormwater fee. As a result of the appeals court ruling, the Sewer District suspended Regional Stormwater Management Program activities and the collection of stormwater fees for the program while the District pursued the appeal to the Supreme Court.
November 12, 2013: The Sewer District asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. The Court of Appeals’ prior ruling jeopardizes stormwater programs throughout the State of Ohio.
February 19, 2014: The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
September 9, 2014: The Sewer District argued its case before the Supreme Court.
September 15, 2015: The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled on the case.
“Let’s get this program back up and running and get some work done.” – Julius Ciaccia, NEORSD CEO
Updates will be provided to customers as soon as possible.
The Sewer District’s Regional Stormwater Management Program will address flooding, erosion and water quality problems throughout its defined service area. In addition, the Sewer District will assume responsibility for millions of dollars of necessary maintenance along streams across the region.
The average homeowner within the Sewer District’s Stormwater Service Area was charged $5.05 per month, or $60.60 per year, to pay for stormwater-related construction projects and maintenance. The Sewer District identified more than $220 million of needed construction projects, and detailed planning on some projects has already begun. These stormwater-related projects will provide relief to multiple communities within each watershed. Several emergency projects were completed in 2013 and others were actively under construction. Projects with alternative funding sources are continuing until funds are exhausted, whereas other much-needed projects were immediately suspended.
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We hope you will consider CORD membership. Any regional district formed under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 may apply for membership as an Active member. The dues vary depending on the number of combined water and sewer taps connected to the district’s system(s), as follows:
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Coalition of Ohio Regional Districts (CORD), founded in 2005, is a non-profit association established solely to assist, protect and advance the interests of Ohio’s Regional Water and Sewer Districts, also known as “6119 Districts”. There are approximately 100 Regional Districts in Ohio providing over 1 million customers with potable water, sanitary sewer or stormwater services.
Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 creates a procedure wherein one or more local governments (townships, counties, and municipalities) may petition the courts to create a new political subdivision whose sole purpose is the provision of water and/or sanitary or storm sewer services. The district borders may be identical to those of the local government forming the district, or they may be only a portion of forming local government(s). In any event, inclusion of a territory within a district must be voluntary.
- To advocate on legislative issues before the Ohio General Assembly.
- To serve as an information sharing and networking forum for regional districts.
- To advance the interests of regional districts with state and federal agencies.
- To monitor legal developments and file amicus curiae briefs on precedent setting cases.
The water and sewer laws of Ohio are complicated, and, at times, confusing. CORD was created to be a one-stop resource for regional districts seeking answers. Likewise, the desire to provide these services sometimes leads to conflict. CORD will be a voice to propose needed legislation and promote legislation beneficial to regional districts. CORD will also serve as a focused, independent voice opposing legislation deemed offensive to regional districts.
Any regional district formed under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 may apply for membership as a ACTIVE MEMBER. Other political subdivisions, individuals or professionals may be considered for CORD membership as an ASSOCIATE MEMBER.
Active Membership dues are $250.00 for the first year. Thereafter, the dues are based on the combined number of water and sewer taps served by the district. Please visit the Membership page for a complete explanation. Associate Membership dues are $250.00 per year. The dues structure is evaluated annually in the context of the costs associated with providing effective services for the members.
In addition to meeting general administrative expenses, dues will be used to fund three primary functions: information production and dissemination, including maintenance of www.cordohio.org; CORD’s meetings and annual conferences; and retention of our legislative team.
CORD has retained the professional services of Governmental Policy Group, a Columbus lobbying firm. The firm utilizes the support of several premier governmental relations experts who specialize in activities at the state and federal levels of government and governmental structures of every major metropolitan center in Ohio. With over one hundred years of combined experience, clients of Governmental Policy Group are assured of professional results. John Albers of Albers and Albers and the CORD Board of Directors will continue to contribute their time toward legislative efforts as well.
CORD was formed with the approval and encouragement of the Ohio Rural Water Association. Some issues are unique to regional districts and a voice dedicated to their interests was needed. CORD and ORWA have always worked closely and we encourage membership in both organizations.
Albert J. Iosue
Jefferson Water & Sewer District
J. Scott Sands, P.E.
Sands Decker CPS, LLC
President, Boardman Township
ABC Water & Storm Water District
Chief Legal Officer
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
- Board Notes
One Board position is currently unfilled. Please contact a CORD Board member if you are affiliated with a District and interested in appointment to the CORD Board.
|CORD Sponsorship Levels||Platinum $2,000/yr||Gold $1,000/yr||Silver $500/yr||Associate $250/yr|
|Recognition as a Vendor and Sponsor of CORD|
|Opportunity to present at CORD yearly membership/annual meeting, regional meetings, webinars and training opportunities|
|Opportunity to sponsor and attend CORD yearly membership/annual meeting, regional meetings, webinars and training opportunities|
|Participate and advertise (subject to Board approval) with the CORD booth at trade shows ie. OTA Winter Conference (may be required to share in registration and set up expenses, as well as pay for any special booth equipment needs)|
|CORD will assist in setting up yearly event to spotlight the Vendor by co-hosting. Vendor will be responsible for all expenses incurred by CORD.|
|Featured sponsor on website and in newsletters|
|Advertise on the website at no additional cost|
|Linked on the CORD website|
|Invited to present an overview of the Sponsor Business to the CORD Board during a Board meeting|
|Invited to contribute articles to the CORD newsletter|
|Opportunity to meet semi-annually with CORD Director and explore ways to enhance or improve Platinum sponsorship.|
|CORD will assist in attempting to schedule and attend meetings between Platinum Sponsors and individual CORD member Districts|
|Invited to participate in CORD Endorsed discount programs (as long as Platinum Sponsor qualifies) Ie: Energy Aggregation|