2007-03-17 / News

Sewer district director retires

By Charles Prince

By Charles Prince

NEWARK -- Licking County Water and Wastewater Director Ken Salsberry, Jr. unexpectedly decided to retire last week.

In a brief letter to county commissioners, Salsberry wrote, "The time is right for me to move on to other adventures...I have really enjoyed my time here and I appreciate everything you have done for me. There are a lot of great people working here at Licking County Government and I will miss seeing everyone." His last day will be March 30.

Licking County Commission President Tim Bubb said the announcement was unexpected.He does not believe that Salsberry's retirement was prompted by the controversy surrounding a proposed 68 percent sewer rate hike. "We've got critical issues all over the county," said Bubb, and the Buckeye Lake sewer rate hike is just one of them. "I'm certainly going to miss (Salsberry's) guidance and leadership," he said. "He's tried to be a very even-handed person. It'll be a loss for us. We'll miss him very much."

Salsberry's retirement plus some more unanswered questions led commissioners to delay the expected vote Monday on a Buckeye Lake Sewer District rate increase.

S a l s b e r r y u p d a t e d commissioners for the second time last week on Thursday. He said an Ohio EPA representative told him that if the district received a low interest Water Pollution Control Loan Fund loan early next year, the first payment wouldn't be due until July 2009. That eases pressures to include in the rate increase funds to begin paying off the loan for the treatment plant expansion. Money to start paying off the loan for the new plant won't be needed until 2008 if the district gets a WPCLF loan.

Construction is currently being financed with Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs). That led to questions about how much in interest on the BANs will be due and when. Commissioners learned this week that interest earned on funds not yet paid to contractors will offset most of the interest due on the BANs.

Salsberry presented a revised spreadsheet to commissioners last Thursday. It cut the proposed rate for the rest of 2007 from $40 per month per EDU to $39 per month. The proposed doubling of the residential connection fee to $6,000 was scaled back to $4,000. The $1,000 increase will be used to retire debt. "It ($39) still gives us positive cash flow," Salsberry said. "I think we can live with that."

Merv Bartholow questioned the need to increase cash balances by $250,000 this year. If the increase in cash is cut to $50,000 that would reduce the rate hike this year from $39 to $35, he said. "Let's reconsider the need for $250,000," he said. A t M o n d a y 's m e e t i n g Tim Weisert said reducing the allowance for delinquent payments from the projected 10 percent to 7 percent would allow the 2007 rate to drop from $39 to $34-35 per month. The delinquency rate averaged 6.16 percent for the 2002-2006 period. Delinquent bills are placed on property tax bills, so they will be paid. The only question is when.

Salsberry presented the commercial billing information that the user group requested. His data shows that 44 commercial accounts are billed on the basis of meter readings. Seven users -- four trailer parks, two motels and a campground -- are billed on the customer counts called into the district office.

For the metered and call-in accounts, there is a significantdifference between the highest l owe s t mo n t h l y u s a g e s Maximum monthly usage is 702.45 EDU's compared to 326.86 EDU's on the low end. Salsberry isn't enthusiastic about charging metered customers at their highest monthly usage

during the previous year as the user group recommends. "It is not something that can be done quickly or accurately at this point," he said.

The user group says the data demonstrates that there are significant problems with consistency, fairness and accuracy. They believe the issue warrants further study so they are asking commissioners to agree to consider revisions to district rules when that study is done.

Salsberry reported Monday that the district's consultant is coming that afternoon to begin work on the nomination form for a WPCLF loan. "It shouldn't take long to do it," he said. The nomination is the first step.

Commissioners still want to increase rates this month. Weisert urged them to consider increases for operating expenses and debt repayment separately. Commissioner Marcia Phelps agreed. Commissioners have already agreed to break out the portion for debt retirement and list it separately on the monthly bills.

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