After last week's private and public meetings on the future of the Pretty Glen Dam, the quick scheduling of a hearing by the Portage County Commissioners led most to believe that a decision on keeping the dam or removing it had been made. However.....about ten Suffield residents attended a meeting today in which Commissioner Maureen Frederick spoke first and immediately announced that no decision on the issue had yet been made and further that the commissioners were committed to exploring all options, including options that hadn't even yet been proposed. After this the Director of the Portage County Water Resources Department Eugene Roberts was given the floor for a very informative presentation on another option. He started by saying that he had had a positive discussion with the City of Akron, who might be willing to allow a pipe from the Mogadore Reservoir to Martin Road for a dry hydrant for Fire Department use. Roberts said that he had met with the Ohio EPA and that they had been receptive to working with the local residents.
Roberts, who only recently became the director of the Portage County Water Resource Department, had been Service Director in Kent for twenty years and was involved in the re-working of the large dam on the Cuyahoga River near downtown Kent and the removal of a dam along Plum Creek. He addressed some of the residents concerns about the final outcome of the creek if the dam were to be removed. In total bluntness, he said that the creek would be small and only a couple times a year the water would flow enough to allow for kayaking, and that the landscape would most definitely be different. He also acknowledged that the odor from the newly exposed muck would last for about one year. Roberts suggested that the natural creek bed could be moved from the south side of the valley to the north side and that small pools of water could be created along the stream.
Also speaking was Todd Bragg, who is the Director of Budget and Finance Management for the commissioners. He also had been in discussions with the Ohio EPA this week. He and commissioner Kathleen Chandler clarified a couple important issues on the money side of the matter. First was that the cost of removing the dam as presented by Shawn Arden of EMH&T last week was stated at $1,621,300 and was just an estimate by his own engineering firm. If the commissioners act to remove the dam, there will be an actual bidding process with the work awarded to a company at that point. The second thing cleared up was the actual estimated cost of dam removal. Bragg said that simply tearing out the dam structure was fairly cheap, $300,000 to $400,000, and that the additional one million or so was to restore the area to as it was prior to the dam's construction in 1938.
Bragg said that there were several grants available or dam removal and remediation of the stream bed, one of which has a deadline of August 31st. This deadline is merely to allow the granters to know of the county's interest. The actual application for monies available in 2017 comes later this year.
Also brought up in this meeting was an admission by John Yeargin that his individual deed for his properties in the Spring Valley allotment does not actually include "rights" to use the Pretty Glen Pond. Yeargin later found that a Covenant of Conditions and Restrictions, of which Patricia Everly had a copy, covers the entire allotment and has a specific section that calls for "valley lake rights" to all property owners. It was suggested by Eugene Roberts that this legal claim may also be included in the tax platting for that area. Maureen Frederick said that the county's legal department would check into this as she wanted to make certain anything done would be done in a legal manner. Kathleen Chandler suggested that perhaps commissioners could set up a bus tour to other places that have had dams removed to see how those areas have fared.
The residents were given time to speak. Patricia Everly, Carol Groh, Bill Daniels, Dave & Linda Barr and Kathy Rhoads all took the opportunity to speak on a variety of issues germane to the Pretty Glen Dam dilemma. The topics of fish and birds was mentioned, lowering the dam in height to change its status with the ODNR, thus eliminating inspections, the valuation of property and, of course, an "expert on muck" Linda Barr told of how they had dredged part of the pond a long time ago and how it took more than three years for the muck to dry.
Commissioner Maureen Frederick said that her concern is that the residents be treated fairly, but she acknowledged the county's lack of funds was a definite obstacle to overcome. There will be more meetings to come. Frederick suggested that residents could check with the commissioners agenda, which is posted on their website: www.co.portage.oh.us/commissioners.htm.
Known to some as the Hills Pond Dam, the Pretty Glen Dam was built in 1938, about the same time that the Mogadore Reservoir was being built. The reservoir was built between 1936 and 1939 as a project of the Works Progress Administration. At the time, the Pretty Glen Dam was built to create a lake for residents in the adjoining Spring Valley allotment to use for recreation. During the 1980's the City of Akron was attempting to spread its way deep into the suburbs through annexation, often employing availability of their water supply and system as a trade off for land. In 1991 the Portage County Commissioners, Chris Smeiles, John D. Thomas and Janet Esposito, purchased the dam and approximately 33.78 acres. This land is mostly on the west side and north side of the dam, and was bought in order to stop Akron's annexation drive toward the Mogadore Reservoir and the rich and industrially potential lands of Suffield Township. Now about 78 years old, the dam is plagued by years of neglect and is subject to ODNR inspections that call for repairs or removal. Thus the issue that now confronts the nearby residents, the county commissioners and Suffield Township as a whole.