Genoa Township Trustees adopt Storm Debris Removal Policy
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Following the storms that plagued Central Ohio on June 29, Bob Mathews, Genoa Township Director of Roads and Buildings & Grounds/Road Superintendent, had to pull his crews off of other pressing township work to gather storm debris township residents placed in their roads’ Right of Way.
A dilemma arose during the July 9 Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting when Mathews asked the trustees if his crews should pick up storm debris placed in the ROW on county maintained roads in Genoa Township.
Mathews said he received word from Delaware County that county crews would not pick up storm debris in the township, even on county maintained roads. Following an extended discussion at that July 9 meeting the trustees agreed to provide storm debris removal for Genoa Township residents living on township roads and county roads within the township who called the township maintenance department by a specific deadline date.
Mathews subsequently wrote a draft Storm Debris Removal Assistance Policy for the trustees to consider; the trustees asked the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office to review the document.
During last Thursday’s trustee meeting, the draft storm debris policy was on the agenda, and discussion centered on one sentence that the prosecutor’s office thought might become problematic.
“The Township will limit the pickup of trees to those which have fallen into or been moved into the Township Right of Way and will not under any circumstances be responsible for removal of storm debris from private property.”
The policy also states that a Right-of-Way is defined generally as the area between the sidewalk and the curb, or in the absence of a sidewalk and a curb the area measured from the edge of the road pavement to no more than 10 feet into a residential property.
The problem with the sentence under discussion was the words “…or been moved into” the township Right of Way. The trustees agreed that trees and limbs falling into a ROW are a township responsibility, but the township is not legally bound to haul away storm debris hauled from private property into the ROW.
“I understand the intent of the wording, and we want to provide a service to our residents,” trustee Karl Gebhardt said. “But I also understand it poses a dilemma. It’s a great service, but is it a proper use of tax dollars.”
Trustee Rick Carfagna commended Mathews on the work he put into the draft document, but he also objected to residents moving storm debris from private property onto the ROW.
“The problem is, we’re not obligated to do any of this,” Carfagna said. “What we would be doing if we adopt this is establishing a precedent. We would be putting you and ourselves in a corner if we don’t have the resources to do this. That’s the concern I have.”
When township administrator Paul Wise reminded Carfagna that Delaware County said the township is responsible for removing storm debris from the right-of-way, Carfagna replied that there is a difference between debris falling in the ROW and homeowners carrying debris into the ROW.
Carfagna said the township always reserves the right to provide additional services if circumstances warrant it, but the wording of the draft policy would obligate the township while, at the same time, in his words, let the county off the hook.
A motion was approved adopting the Storm Debris Removal Assistance Policy, with the problematic sentence amended. Four words were removed: “… or been moved into”. The revised policy reads: “The Township will limit the pickup of trees to those which have fallen into the Township Right of Way and will not under any circumstances be responsible for removal of storm debris from private property.”
Following the vote Carfagna said the trustees are not against removing storm debris, but prefer to assess each situation on a case-by-case basis.
“This policy helps clarify our responsibility, and we still do have the ability to approve or disapprove storm debris removal,” Gebhardt added. “But this clarifies all township responsibility, and keeps us out of the issue of going on private property and expending public funds.”
The trustees also noted that Rumpke Waste Management would haul appropriately bundled storm debris; and that large trees and limbs falling on private property would typically be a homeowner’s responsibility.
An updated list of Genoa Township meetings is available on the Township’s website at < genoatwp.com >.
The Genoa Township Administrative Offices are located at the Genoa Township Hall, 5111 South Old 3C Highway, Westerville, and are regularly open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.