2007-05-26 / News

Trying for win:win agreement on public water supply

By Charles Prince

HEBRON - The Village of Buckeye Lake's long stalled plan to provide safe, affordable drinking water to residents could get a jumpstart next Tuesday afternoon.

Buckeye Lake officials recently approached Hebron Village Administrator Mike McFarland about the possibility of buying water from its recently expanded water treatment plant. Licking County officials also have spoken to McFarland about extending and expanding the county's current contract to buy water. The county operates the Harbor Hills water system.

After consulting with Hebron Mayor Clifford L. Mason and village council members, McFarland set up a public meeting for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29 in council chambers.

"We're going to look at the issue of water distribution in the Hebron-Buckeye Lake area," he told The Beacon. "Let's bring all the folks together and talk about this."

He's invited representatives from Ohio EPA's Division of Financial and Environmental Assistance and the Division of Drinking and Ground Water. Ohio EPA has reportedly strongly encouraged the Village of Buckeye Lake to purchase water rather than build and operate its own water treatment plant. The Hebron plant is about 0.7 of a mile from Buckeye Lake, on the other side of I-70. McFarland expects at least one county commissioner to attend as well as the interim director of the county's water and wastewater department. A county planning commission representative has been invited.

Hebron has plenty of water while the Village of Buckeye Lake and some of the unincorporated areas around Hebron in both Licking and Union townships are thirsty. Hebron's new plant can produce 2.2 million gallons per day. Hebron currently uses or sells about 700,000 gallons a day.

"Three hundred thousand gallons per day for Buckeye Lake or some other entity shouldn't be difficult," McFarland said.

Hebron asked former Granville Village Administrator and now professional consultant Doug Plunkett to moderate the meeting. Plunkett is asking participants to outline issues before the two-hour meeting to make it as productive as possible.

McFarland hopes participants can leave the past behind when they walk into the meeting. "We're starting with a clean sheet of paper," he explained. " We're looking for a common ground to benefit the entire area."

"The water is there; the need is there," McFarland added. He has already discussed "changing conditions" with village council members during a committee meeting.

Hebron would have to rescind an ordinance currently prohibiting the sale of water outside the village. McFarland recognizes there are a number of challenges on both sides, but is optimistic.

"This may be a moment of opportunity," he said. "I would hate to see it pass by."

The meeting is open to the public. It is not a Hebron Council meeting. There will be a short opportunity at the end of the meeting for public comments. McFarland hopes that the focus is on the future, not the past.

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