Conservancy group calls new Hamilton meeting after outrage about rate hikes

‘We are listening to you’ Miami Conservancy District tells Hamilton

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

After questions and outrage from Hamilton city leaders and residents about planned higher assessments for flood protection services, the Miami Conservancy District announced it will have a meeting in the city and said it is “listening to feedback” about the plan.

In a weekend announcement, the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) scheduled a special meeting of its board of directors May 3 with a 4 p.m. work session followed by a 5 p.m. meeting.

“Attention stakeholders: During the last several weeks, as the flood protection benefits and assessments have been updated with new county property values, and there is a better understanding of projected assessment amounts, we are listening to you and hearing your feedback,” the MCD post about the special meeting said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The MCD’s planned increased property value assessments are leading to significantly higher flood protection rates for Hamilton properties.

>> EARLIER: Hamilton fights flood protection charges: ‘It is not personal, it is business.’

A group called “Keep Hamilton Afloat” formed to question and contest the assessment increases. More than 100 people came last week to a special Hamilton City Council meeting called to talk about the increases with board President Mark Rentschler and General Manager MaryLynn Lodor presenting information about the changes and flood protection services.

Hamilton City Council members and residents said they didn’t disagree with the mission of and need for the conservancy district, which has offered flood protection services for more than a century. All who spoke at the meeting said they were willing to pay to support the MCD.

However, because Hamilton property assessments would increase three, five and even 10 times, it is too much, many who spoke said. Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill would see its annual assessment increase more than 50 times its current rate. That means Spooky Nook would jump from about $8,800 now to nearly $477,500 in 2025. Spooky Nook leaders have said they plan to appeal.

The Fitton Center for the Arts now is assessed just under $11,600 per year but will be charged just under $31,700 with the changes. Fitton Center leases the land from the Hamilton Community Foundation.

>> EARLIER: Miami Conservancy District rate hike infuriates Hamilton leaders

The proposed assessment increase includes a new 1% capital assessment and a 0.59% increase to the 2.19% maintenance assessment. The assessment covers costs related to the upkeep and rehabilitation of the levee and dam system. The district said it has identified about $140 million in short-term and long-term projects needed to ensure levees, dams and channels across the region remain safe and effective.

During their presentation at city council last week, Rentschler, a lifelong Hamiltonian, and Lodor said exceptions to property valuations can be made until May 3. Some city council members encouraged inundating the conservancy district with exceptions.

>> PHOTOS: Concerned Citizens gather for special Hamilton council meeting to discuss Miami Conservancy District assessment increase

MCD officials have said aging infrastructure, extreme weather events and increasing rainfall are putting pressure on the regional flood protection system, which has critical maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and reinvestment needs.

Rentschler said the Great Miami River has seen a huge increase in high-water events, which is what they call “retention events,” and “that means our dams are storing water. That means somebody doesn’t get flooded.”

However, the high-water events, he said, add “immense stress” to a fully integrated measure of flood protection and create erosion and damage to the infrastructure. The flood protection measures, like dams upstream and levees, are seeing signs of failure. The MCD spends between $6 million to $10 million a year in maintenance and upkeep of the system.

The MCD formed in the region after the Great Flood of 1913 in which hundreds of Hamilton residents died. It also hit hard those living in Dayton and other nearby river communities.

Journal-News Reporter Michael D. Pitman contributed to this report.