Thornville wants county's offer in writing
THORNVILLE- The pace of negotiations between Thornville and Perry County to provide sewer service to the south bank of Buckeye Lake has picked up considerably.
All three Perry County Commissioners attended Monday night's Thornville Village Council meeting to discuss the status of a proposal for Thornville to provide sewer service to hundreds of homes along Honey Creek Road. While the prospect of reaching a compromise looked fairly grim by the end of the council meeting, Thornville Village Administrator Josh Eggleston said Tuesday that the compromise process was "pressing along very nicely" by the time two council members and the three commissioners talked for a couple of hours in a late night public meeting following the council meeting. "It was a very good meeting and we're still progressing," said Eggleston. He expected the commissioners to have rough draft of a written proposal for Thornville within a week of Monday's meeting.
Getting something in writing was foremost on the minds of Thornville residents and village council members during the Monday council meeting. Within the last two weeks, Thornville submitted two south bank sewer service proposals to the commissioners and some Thornville residents and council members were upset that the commissioners didn't have a written counter proposal ready for the council meeting. and Thornville Mayor Dale Brussee delivered two contract proposals to the Perry County Commissioners--a proposed agreement between the village and county to provide sewer service to the south bank of Buckeye Lake, and a proposed agreement for the village to sell treated water to Northern Perry County. According to the proposed sewer contract, the county would pay the village $10 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treated. In addition, the county would pay 70 percent of the village's debt service. The county could never send the village more than 110,000 gallons of sewage per day. If it does, the county would pay a penalty of 500 percent for every 10 percent increment of sewage the village receives beyond 110,000 gallons.
March 21, Thornville submitted an updated proposal that eliminated the charge of $10 per 1,000 gallons.
According to the proposed water contract, the county would pay $2.75 per 1,000 gallons of treated water with a guaranteed daily minimum billed usage of 125,000 gallons. Last summer, the commissioners proposed a rate of $2.30 per 1,000 gallons.
Monday night, Perry County Commissioner Thad Cooperrider updated council members and residents on the status of the proposal to provide sewer service to the south bank and the Thornville proposal to provide fresh water to Northern Perry County.
"The (fresh) water was not doable for us, but it was close," said Cooperrider. "We should be able to work it out." However, the sewer proposal "wasn't even close to what we could afford," he said. "It doesn't meet the needs of the county, but it's still worth looking at again."
Cooperrider said the county really needs 200,000 per day of sewage treatment capacity, but Thornville's proposal limits the county to 110,000 gallons. "We need to finda way to have 200,000," he said. "If not, we won't be able to take the contract." Cooperrider said Thornville's sewer plant has a capacity of 400,000 gallons per day, but is currently operating at 130,000 gallons per day. "Much of that is I and I (inflowand infiltration, mainly stormwater runoff)," he said. Cooperrider added that if all the inflowand infiltration were removed from Thornville's plant, it would be operating at 15 percent of its capacity, which may be too little for the plant even to function properly.
Cooperrider said the county could spend $1.8 million to $2 million to update the county's existing Crown Wehrle sewage treatment plant to "ultra modern" standards. With the update, he believes the Crown Wehrle plant could handle 200,000 gallons per day. "We'll still come to Thornville, even if it's more expensive," he said. "It's good for Thornville."
Council President Beth Patrick asked if the county had a counter proposal ready.
"No, we don't," replied Cooperrider, explaining he only read the most recent proposed contract Friday.
Resident Terry Anderson asked why the negotiations are being "portrayed in public." He believes the village's negotiating team and county representatives should hold much of the negotiation in private. "This has gone on too long, Thad," he said.
"It's public money; it affects everyone in the room," Cooperrider replied. "I don't want to do this behind closed doors."
Resident Willis McNabb said he believes Cooperrider only replies to proposals in the newspapers or public meetings. "You don't want to put your proposals in writing," he said.
Cooperrider said that last September the commissioners clearly spelled out a proposed contract to Thornville, which was given to the village and reviewed publicly. He reiterated that the county needs more capacity than what Thornville is offerring and hoped that a compromise could be reached that evening. He said that Thornville meetings often result in "lots of finger pointing," but he assured the county would deliver a counter proposal in writing.
Former Thornville Mayor Terry Lynn asked why 200,000 gallons of capacity is needed.
Commissioner Lonnie Wood said Tuesday that 110,000 gallons will serve the existing homes and the open lots along Honey Creek Road. But, Wood said the commissioners want the extra capacity for future growth in order to make the system more affordable to the customers and the county. The more homes that are on the system, the cheaper everyone's rates.
Monday night, council member Ron Dittoe said without a recent written proposal from the county, the village has worked under the assumption the county needs 110,000 gallons per day. "They just let us know in the last couple of days they need 200,000," he said. Why would Thornville want to give up half its capacity ahead of any growth the village may experience? He didn't believe the county would be sending the village 200,000 gallons per day within the next fiveyears. Dittoe said the village has experienced problems in the past because people guessed at the village's needs. "I don't want to guess," he said. Dittoe suggested that once the village is processing 110,000 gallons per day from the county per day, then the village can make adjustments for future needs. Why not revisit the 110,000 gallon contract in a few years, he asked.
Dittoe said after the meeting he feels like the county is trying to make it look as though the village is holding up the process. He said that is not the case. "We thought the priority was to provide sewer to Buckeye Lake," he said. "We've done that (in the proposed contract)."
"We've been negotiating against ourselves, so far," said council member Kevin Howell. "We gave them what they asked for."
Tuesday, Wood said no decision was made during a late night public meeting following the council meeting, but there was definite progress. "We're closer (to a signed contract) than we've ever been," he said. Wood agreed with Eggleston that a written draft counter proposal from the county should be ready sometime this week.
T h e P e r r y C o u n t y Commissioners are holding a public meeting, Monday, April 2, 7 p.m. at Thornville Elementary School to discuss the Thornville/ Perry County sewer proposal.