Ravenna says billing complaint doesn't hold water

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By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

Fred Miavitz Jr. was pretty shocked when he opened his water bill and saw a 4,800 percent jump in his stormwater rates.

Miavitz, along with his father, had been billed the residential rate for the past seven years, ever since Ravenna instituted a stormwater utility. Both had been incorrectly billed, a mistake the city discovered when talking to the family about a water line project in the area.

The younger Miavitz said his storm water utility bill jumped from $3 to $144 per month, not including the water bill. The city is not billing him for the seven years he was undercharged, and has agreed to split future bills among the other tenants in the building where he has his hobby shop.

But that's not enough for Miavitz, who wants the city to write off his storm water bill because of a stream that he says handles drainage for a chunk of the city's downtown.

Some city officials say that complaint doesn't hold water.

"The city's storm water utility does not take into account where the water runs or where it ends up," Service Director Kelly Engelhart said.

Miavitz is owner of Freddie's Hobbies on Romito Road, which includes an outdoor track for his hobby shop. His hobby shop and machine shop takes up about 8,500 feet of the 45,000-square-foot building.

Engelhart said the city met with Fred Miavitz Sr. to discuss a water line project at Sycamore Street and Mill Road. Mike Reynolds, the city's water billing supervisor, noticed that the elder Miavitz had mistakenly been charged the residential rate for his commercial property.

That kicked off a review of other commercial properties in Ravenna, during which the city found that Fred Miavitz Jr. also had been underbilled. So far, Engelhart said, the city has not uncovered any other discrepancies in its review.

While all residential properties are billed the same $3, commercial properties are billed based on their roof space and parking areas. Gravel parking lots, like those the Miavitz family has, count as impervious because during a heavy rain, water runs off the lot before it has a chance to soak into the ground.

The utility generates about $415,000 a year, which the engineering division uses to meet EPA mandates on stormwater.

Miavitz thinks city council ought to change its seven-year-old law on stormwater to waive his fee, based on a drainage area he said the city isn't compensating him for.

The stream, located on a low area of the 15-acre Miavitz property, has large black pipes feeding water to it, but Engelhart said the pipes weren't put there by the city. During an especially heavy rain storm, Miavitz said, water levels rise to about 10 feet, he said.

Surrounding property owners also have sent their water to his property without his permission, he claimed.

Engelhart said the area is a natural drainage area that has been in place for many years.

"Water goes to the low area," she said. "Water always runs downhill."

She said the city's ordinance doesn't have a mechanism to change a bill for one individual.

Miavitz claims the water is eroding his property, and there is a sinkhole on his land.

"I'll just fill it up, and let the streets flood," he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier

Twitter: @DianeSmith_RC

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