Marietta officials talk right of way measure

MARIETTA — A comprehensive right of way ordinance defining prohibitions, permits, length of terms and application procedures was the subject of a public hearing held by Marietta City Council Thursday.

“Our town is very, very old and there are not maps showing where every line and sewer are,” said Streets Committee Chairwoman Kathy Downer, who called the public hearing.

Downer explained that the ordinance, which is expected to pass with a few clerical adjustments at the Dec. 7 regular council meeting, was created in response to a bill passed by state legislators last year infringing upon the rights of home-rule over city rights of way.

Rights of way include tree lawns, alleys, streets, parks, sidewalks and any public walkways and parks. Beneath many such areas are miles of gas, water, sewer and electric lines and above there are phone and electric lines throughout the city.

“This is probably one of the first cities we’ve ever run gas lines in,” said Paul Briggs, representing Dominion Energy at the hearing Thursday.

Briggs, Paul Prater with American Electric Power and B.J. Smith with AT&T were all present Thursday to review their companies’ concerns with the right of way ordinance originally introduced to council on Oct. 19.

“We save the city of Marietta thousands of dollars every year through the removal of diseased trees,” said Prater. “We have a wonderful relationship since we came here more than 10 years ago. We are not difficult to deal with. We’d like to sit down with you to get (parts of the ordinance concerning tree removal) rephrased.”

Downer said her intention was to have tree commission oversee the plans for trees in the city, to ensure that all is done to preserve the city’s status as a Tree City USA member and to confirm the status of diseased trees versus trees that just need trimming.

Prater also brought up the issue of mapping requirements outlined in the ordinance as a security issue for public documents.

City Law Director Paul Bertram said the issue of mapping was brought about by a need for knowledge during engineering of projects.

“I know from the standpoint under public records law certain details have changed as to what’s required by public records,” said Bertram, noting the need to still know locations of lines underground for the safety of residents and businesses as utilities are upgraded both by the city and by different utilities companies.

Smith, director of external affairs for AT&T, also spoke at the public hearing on concerns of mapping requirements outlined in the ordinance.

“The biggest one was that our mapping information is confidential both for security and competitive reasons,” said Smith.

Bertram said he’s willing to work with Dominion, AT&T and AEP to go over their concerns and come to an understanding on how criteria and costs were outlined in the ordinance prior to council’s predicted amendment and vote on Dec. 7.

In Council’s Finance Committee, City Auditor Sherri Hess asked for council’s blessing to create two new funds to keep donated money separated from the city’s general fund. The Start Westward Monument and East Muskingum Park Restoration, which already has a $25,000 donation coming, and Gold Star Park will both see resolutions at the Dec. 7 regular council meeting with emergency clauses so that Hess can take those requests to the state to create the funds.

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