Saturday, June 29, 2013

Water Management

My nephew, Tyler, an environmental engineering major at OSU, has become increasingly interested in water conservation since visiting a kibbutz in Israel last winter where significant inroads on water management and conservation are being made by evironmental engineers. This week, he installed a couple of rain barrels for me. I can't tell you how happy I am to have them, just from a financial perspective, since our summer water bills tend to lean toward the side of high to outrageously high. I like plants and plants need water. But from a practical and environmental perspective, many of us in Amberley have been dealing with the question of what to do with too much water for years. While the Amberley Creek and its subsidiaries provide us with a lovely ambiance, when it rains that beautiful babbling brook can become a raging menace -- overflowing its banks and flooding our yards. Yes, the water comes from the rain falling directly from the clouds, but it also comes fast and furiously from the gutters and downspouts on our homes.

Amberley: Before Rain Garden Installed
Installing rain barrels to collect the water from our downspouts have many benefits. First, it prevents the runoff from our gutters from entering our already overloaded storm sewers. Second, rain barrels help to prevent ponding and flooding of water in our yards; third, it prevents flooding of stormwater into our streets; fourth, rain barrels provide free water for our gardens.

 Rain gardens are another practical measure homeowners can take to harvest and control some of the excess water flooding their property. In fact, Amberley Village has examples of both a rain barrel and a rain garden at Village Hall.  Before installing the Village Hall rain garden, the south end of the field was prone to flooding. By installing a rain garden, not only has the flooding been curbed, but the area is now more beautiful with the addition of deep-rooted native plants and grasses, and is a habitat for butterflies and birds.
Rain Garden in 2008

Amberley's website has plenty of information about rain barrels and rain gardens. More information can also be found at Rain Garden Network, as well as guides for installation.
Rain Garden in 2013

Amberley Rain Garden in 2013
The Hamilton County Storm Water and Conservation District has published a manual for use in properly constructing a rain garden. It can be downloaded here:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Electric Aggregation

Are you getting your electricity from Dayton Power & Light (DP&L), Amberley's electric aggregator? If you are not, is it because you are currently under contract with another energy supplier (not Duke Energy) and don't want to pay an early cancellation fee? Without boring you with the details of my own experience of trying to join with other Amberley residents and get the much lower aggregated rate (.045/kwh), I will simply clear up some misconceptions and provide some information that is not currently on our website:

1. DP&L will pay any other provider's early termination fee of up to $150. If you are staying with another electric provider because you don't want to be charged a cancellation fee, call DP&L and explain this to them. They are difficult to get a hold of, but they will call you back. If you send them an email, you will hear back within 24 hours. Their email address is

2. Amberley's contracted rate until May, 2014 is 0.0445 cents per kilowat hour. (My current rate with First Energy is 0.063 cents per kwh and changes with each reading. I would have saved much more money by switching last year, had I known DP&L would pay the early termination charge).

3. If you never contracted with another supplier, you are already benefitting from Amberley's contract with DP&L, even though your bills still come from Duke Energy.

4. You must fill out the form on the website and email or fax it to DP&L to get the Amberley Village rate. The rate for regular customers is currently 0.053 kwh, which is not as good a deal as Amberley's negotiated rate.

Start saving money on your electric bill!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Complete Streets

Pedestrian shoulder Ridge Rd.
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, "Providing safe places for people to walk is an essential responsiblility of government entities involved in constructing or regulating the construction of public rights-of-way." This seems so obvious, but Amberley has been wrestling with this issue for decades. By not moving forward with long-range planning to make Amberley more pedestrian friendly, housing and livablity trends are passing us by as the Millenial generation is seeking out living spaces that provide multiple options for transportation, which include more public transportion options as well as safe pathways.

It is time for Amberley Village officials to recognize that, although we do not have a central business district within our own community, a majority of our residents live within walking distance of business districts in either Pleasant Ridge, to the south, and Dillonvale, to the north. Safe access to these areas and to our own amentities within the Village will increase our property values thus benefitting the financial forcast for our community

In her presentation, "Designing Communities for All: The role of complete streets in improving accessibility and enhancing economic competitiveness," Kerstin Carr of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (morpc), indicates that "every one-point increase in the 100-point Walk Score scale is associated with an increase in home value of $500-$3,000." From a health standpoint, she cites another study that found that "43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home met recommended activity levels. Among individuals without safe places to walk, just 27% were active enough." Amberley has great places to walk -- French Park, Amberley Green, the Amberley Walking Path, the JCC --  but we lack a safe way to get there on foot.

The Health, Education, & Welfare committee of Council held a meeting yesterday on the issue of pedestrian safety. The issue encompasses more than just providing a safe shoulder of the road upon which to walk. Our intersections can be made safer by installing crosswalks. Streets can be identified that are routinely used as cut-through thoroughfares and traffic calming measures can be examined. The city council of Westerville, Ohio, passed a Resolution last year expressing support of the Complete Streets Initiative. By so doing, they are expressing their committment to remember pedestrians when the time comes to budget for street maintenance and improvements.
Amberley should do the same. In fact, at Monday's council meeting, we supported the introduction of a Long Range Financial Plan, the partial mission of which includes this question: "What are (we) doing as... government officials to ensure that our community and value is not only maintained but enhanced ten years from now and beyond?" (Emphasis mine).  An important question, and not one to be ignored when budgeting for the maintenance and future of our community.