Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
By Margie Wuebker
Process begins to improve historic canal through Minster
  MINSTER - Local councilors took the initial step toward a much-needed facelift for the Miami and Erie Canal on Tuesday night, giving first reading to an ordinance authorizing the mayor to petition the Auglaize County Commissioners for improvements.
If approved at the county level, the ditch petition could pave the way for work to be done as early as 2010.
The proposed project involves two phases - from First to Seventh streets and from Seventh Street to state Route 119. Although the latter area lays outside the village, local officials could include the area since water from the Parkview Subdivision drains into the canal.
Village Administrator Don Harrod noted the ditch petition process was used in the 1980s for canal work from First Street southward to Fort Loramie.
The proposed project would include dredging, removing brush, working with property owners in regard to trees, sloping the sides and putting in rock or grass. Rock is the favored choice due to asthetics and maintenance considerations.
In August 2004, Choice One Engineering prepared a project estimate for council showing the cost at that time to be $425,000 for the First to Seventh streets and $234,500 for Seventh Street to state Route 119.
Councilors considered improvements over the years. However, previous options involved entering into an open-ended lease management agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Officials have repeatedly said ownership in any form is not an option.  
"The advantage of a ditch petition is we don't have to own the property and it would be forever under maintenance by the Auglaize County Engineer's Office," Harrod said. "That makes this a viable option."  
Matt Quinter of the Auglaize County Engineer's Office came to a previous council meeting to explain the process. It would include dredging 6 inches to make a uniform bottom and narrowing the expanse to increase water velocity thereby keeping the canal clean.
He believes the cost figures submitted five years ago should hold true particularly in these tough financial times when contractors are looking for work. Rock remains a costly part of the project.
Quinter says the canal is very different in Minster than in other communities because it is the main source of storm water drainage.
To eliminate costly certified mailings to affected property owners, councilors agreed to pick up assessments for village residents. The required notification also involves several dozen farm and property owners outside the village but still in the watershed.
Following third and final reading, the petition, along with a required $500 bond, will be forwarded to commissioners. The steps then involve a public viewing, two legal hearings and preparation of final plans outlining methods and costs. At that point commissioners will decide on whether to proceed.
A section of canal, particularly the area extending north of Seventh Street along the Parkview Acres subdivision, is overgrown with weeds and overhanging trees. Groups such as the Minster Civic Association and the Minster Historical Society have spoken out about the unsightly condition of the historic waterway.
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