In a 6-1 vote, Marysville City Council voted to proceed with a grant application that could turn the local reservoir into a recreational area.
Officials will submit a proposal to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Waterways Safety Fund to add fishing and recreational boating at the Raymond Road facility.
City Councilman Mark Reams voted against the third and final reading of the resolution, which attracted debate during recent meetings. The sticking point is a stipulation in the grant that requires the city to allow boats using motors of up to 10 horsepower on the water.
Mayor John Gore told council he heard a lot of misinformation being passed around, so he brought in the city's department heads to make it clear that the administration is united on the plans.
Scott Sheppeard, the city's water superintendent, said he is wholeheartedly on board with the project.
"The benefits outweigh the risk. I think it's something great for the community and county itself," Sheppeard said.
Battalion Chief Mark Ropp said the Marysville Division of Fire endorses the boating project.
"The fire department is professionally staffed, we're equipped and we're trained to respond to emergencies that may occur at the reservoir on a 24-hour-a-day basis that involves accidents, injuries, chemical spills or anything that may occur," Ropp said.
Marysville Police Chief Floyd Golden said the city and the Union County Sheriff's Office have an agreement about patrolling the parks, and he believes the recreational boating will not affect their ability to monitor the reservoir.
Public Service Director Mike Andrako said he had no concerns about maintenance of the park.
"When I was first hired I thought, 'Wow, what an opportunity,' " Andrako said.
Reams has been very vocal in his opposition to allowing gas-powered boats on the reservoir, citing concerns about potential contamination of residents' drinking water.
He said he researched several reservoirs in other states and Ohio that do not allow boating and found the reasons went beyond gas and oil potentially contaminating the water.
Some reservoirs allow only electric boats because they tend to be smaller. Gas-powered boats tend to be bigger, which means they may be used in Lake Erie. Those boats could potentially transport zebra mussels and contaminate the Marysville reservoir, he said.
"They attach to hard surfaces. They attach to boats, so they transport on boats. They are very hard to detect and can live for 10 days outside of water," Reams said. "They clog pumps, they clog your intakes and they clog your infrastructure."
Reams said officials in the Great Lakes spend $360,000 a year in zebra mussel control, and smaller municipalities spend an average of $20,000 a year in control efforts.
In the end, Reams was the lone voice against the plan.
City Administrator Terry Emery said a draft request has already been submitted to the state, and city officials would immediately send the official, council-approved grant application.
If the grant is awarded, the city will enter into a cooperative agreement with the state to develop the project. Design work would start in spring 2015, with construction in 2016.
The reservoir was built in 2008 with a capacity of 1.39 billion gallons of water. The city started using it as a drinking water source in fall 2009.
Emery said the project is expected to cost between $400,000 and $500,000. The grant could fund the entire cost.
The ODNR Waterways Safety Fund grants are financed by a share of the state gas tax, watercraft registration and title fees and money from the U.S. Coast Guard.
In other business, council unanimously approved the third and final reading of a resolution to purchase the property at 222 S. Main St.
The site, which now houses the offices of Marysville Grace Church, will be purchased by the city for $190,000 from owners Richard and Anita Bailey. The city is expected to take possession June 1.
The city will demolish the house and garage on the site and build a parking lot to draw more people to the new Partners Park and subsequently increase foot traffic uptown.