It took years - too many years in the eyes of many residents. Nevertheless, last week Buckeye Lake Village Council unanimously cleared a major hurdle in the long running effort to provide safe and affordable public water. Their decision, with the strong support of Mayor Frank Foster, will save residents thousands of dollars on their future water bills.
Everyone does win in the agreement worked out with the Village of Millersport for Buckeye Lake to buy treated bulk water from Millersport for the next 20 years. Buckeye Lake residents get a fair price for treated water from a brand new water treatment plant. Millersport significantlyincreases its customer base, making it easier to pay off its new plant. Residents in both villages will benefit from the larger customer base, allowing the substantial fixed costs to be spread over more customers.
Buckeye Lake still faces several hurdles before residents will be able to drink clean, affordable water. Village officials need to keep a very close eye on engineering expenses. Our distribution system was first designed in the late 1990's and recently updated. Little has changed in the technology of water distribution, so it's important to make sure that the current firmdoesn't try to 'reinvent the wheel' at our expense. Thanks to our narrow streets and almost nonexistent public right-of-ways, construction of the distribution system will be costly and disruptive. That can't be avoided. It's critical that property owners recognize the greater good and cooperate in the construction process.
Now that council has made the 'buy or make' decision, the next critical policy decision is how to pay for the distribution system. We've long favored spreading these costs over all property owners since everyone, whether they elect to hook on to the system or not, will benefit from public water. Once again, the more that contribute, the less each owner has to pay. Somehow both major mobile home parks must contribute in proportion to their number of home sites. The agreement worked out for Leisure Village to pay just a handful of the 'no water bills' is unacceptable and unfair. Council members should hire a specialist in assessments and utility rate design to address these issues.
It's not often that we praise Buckeye Lake officials, but they have made the right decision here. Finally, public water is just over the horizon. But it will take more work and attention to detail to make sure it remains affordable.