|Putnam County regional water, sewer system all but certain|
|Wednesday, July 03, 2013 12:06 AM|
BY ALEX WOODRING
OTTAWA — The likelihood of the county seeing a regional water and sewer system is all but certain.
Last year, the Putnam County commissioners approved a resolution in support of a partnership agreement between the Village of Ottawa and the commissioners for a regional water and sanitary sewer. This was done in response to EPA regulations for water and sanitary sewer systems becoming more stringent and costly for villages.
The county is in charge of sewer service for properties outside the Ottawa’s corporation. The sewer services are provided by the village.
The push for a countywide water and sewer system, an idea talked about for multiple years, is in response to the Village of Ottawa serving three other villages and some unincorporated areas in the county with water and one other community and unincorporated areas with wastewater services.
In hopes to cut costs, the village and commissioners started the push for a regional system. The regionalization process started about a year and half ago. Municipal Director Jack Williams wrote and was granted $100,000 for regional water and sewer in regards to a feasibility study.
According to Williams, it is a matter of not if but when.
“Without regionalization, if five communities each have their own water and wastewater treatment facility, they are required to each have licensed personnel in charge of operations at each facility,” wrote Williams in the grant application. “They are also responsible for the delivery of drinking water as well as water for processing with respect to some businesses and industries. If any of those communities choose to build or rebuild a facility, they must make a large investment, paid by increased rates to consumers.”
Under a regional system, if five communities were to collaborate to build one facility each to serve the entire population, consumers would share in the initial costs as well as operations and maintenance of one facility for water and wastewater facility.
According to the grant application, the consumers should benefit economically by consolidating costs.
“The consumer should be able to address the costly regulatory demands by spreading these costs over a larger consumer groups,” wrote Williams in the application. “Also, the residential consumer should have more discretionary money to reinvest in the community through the purchase of durable goods, thus helping to further stimulate the economy.”
Williams also goes on to claim that businesses and industries should have more investment capital to invest in the community which should increase their tax base.
The change would require a 6119, where things are currently operated under a 6117.
In the Ohio Revised Code, chapter 6117 states that, “For the purpose of preserving and promoting the public health and welfare, a board of county commissioners may lay out, establish, consolidate, or otherwise modify the boundaries of, and maintain, one or more sewer districts within the county and outside municipal corporations and may have a registered professional engineer make the surveys necessary for the determination of the proper boundaries of each district.”
Chapter 6119 states that, “any area situated in any unincorporated part of one or more contiguous counties or in one or more municipal corporations, or both, may be organized as a regional water and sewer district in the manner and subject to the conditions provided in Chapter 6119 of the Revised Code, for either or both of the following purposes: (A) To supply water to users within and without the district; (B) To provide for the collection, treatment and disposal of waste water within and without the district.”
Before this can take place, they must begin by filing a petition in Putnam County Common Pleas Court. Public hearings are also required before a regional water and sewer district can be established. The memorandum submitted to the court include how it will effectively serve customers, a plan of operation and issues and how they are addressed.
According to Commissioner John Love, villages do not have to be a part of the program.
“It will work like a co-op but if say, Columbus Grove doesn’t want to be a part of it, they don’t have to be,” said Love.
Ottawa Municipal Director Jack Williams likes the idea of a 6119 because it takes the politics out of it.
“With a 6119, the board is essentially non-political,” said Williams. “The positions are appointed. It also goes by district so it can go across county line. That way it takes the politics out of it.”
A district would be run by a board of trustees that cannot include a majority of elected officials from the district.
Under a regional system, rates would be based on resident per dwelling or linear pie fee. It is based on the district and what is considered fair for all by the appointed board.
Commission Vince Schroeder is not opposed but warns the savings may be farther down the line and not instantly felt.
“You will have a 6119 but then you need a project to go with it,” said Schroeder. “The cost of the project would be the same with or without a 6119. Maybe down the road it will save money.”
Williams cites the size of many of the communities as a reason to move forward with regionalization.
“A lot of communities are too small to be building their own plant,” said Williams.
As it stands, commissioners are having discussions with Miller City officials about providing sewer services for their town.