By DENISE GRANT
For the first time in years, Marathon Petroleum Corp. has announced it plans to take a more active and vocal position in the push for flood control in Hancock County.
David E. Blatnik, a state government affairs manager for Marathon, attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District board, which is now in charge of flood-control plans for both Hancock and Putnam counties.
Blatnik said the company plans to organize a nonprofit entity to work with the conservancy district and the Hancock County commissioners to make sure flood-control efforts go beyond just modifying the river channel in Findlay.
Blatnik said during the July 14 flood, Marathon was again forced to shut down operations at its headquarters in Findlay. High water made its new, high-rise parking garage on East Sandusky Street inaccessible.
“We can’t keep doing business this way,” Blatnik said.
Marathon was also instrumental in establishing the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership, a private/public nonprofit which helped organize flood-control efforts soon after the severe flood of August 2007. That flood also temporarily shut down operations at the Marathon complex.
The mitigation partnership no longer holds a current registration as a nonprofit in Ohio.
“So far, the opposition (to flood-control proposals) has been very vocal. We are going to stand up as a business community and work to make sure this project moves forward,” Blatnik said.
Rural property owners have voiced opposition to proposed floodwater storage basins and to a proposed Eagle Creek diversion channel, but do support improvements to the river.
Blatnik said Hancock County’s sales tax has been useful in paying for engineers and flood-control studies, and buying flood-prone properties, but he said property tax assessments are the right vehicle for paying for a large project.
Building the floodwater basins proposed by Stantec could cost $140 million.
Blatnik said “people need to see what that number looks like on their property tax bill. Is it $50 or $1,000?”
The conservancy district has the authority to levy tax assessments for flood-control projects and has eminent domain authority to acquire needed properties.