2008-09-20 / News

Some water questions answered

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE - Monday night's power outages in the wake of Sunday's windstorm may have added to the strong turnout at a meeting sponsored by the Village of Buckeye Lake at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, which, unlike many of the homes in Buckeye Lake, had electricity.

The village invited M•E Companies Vice President Kevin Wood and Ohio Rural Communities Assistance Partnership Field Agent Coordinator John Roush to answer community questions about a pending public water distribution system set to be constructed next year.

M•E Companies is a Westerville based engineering firm designing the distribution system and RCAP provides free and low-cost services to help rural communities address their drinking water and wastewater treatment needs.

Wood warned that next year's construction process will be a "headache" because the village's streets are narrow and there will be lots of digging. "Access to all homes will be maintained," he said. Wood estimates the project will cost $7 million. The village has applied for $3.5 million in government grants for the project and has already received some grant money and several low interest and interestfree loans.

Roush said the village is expecting about 900 customers (out of about 1,200 homes). Buckeye Lake water customers can expect to pay a little less than $50 per month. That average bill may shrink as the village receives more grants and if more customers sign up.

"The $50 bill is probably shocking most people," said Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster, "but this is without the tap fee." Foster said the village is waiving the tap fee, which could be as high as $5,000, for customers who sign up for the service before the distribution system is installed. Clearly, he said, this is an incentive to convince as many people as possible to sign up.

"The more customers, the lower everyone's rate," said Wood. He distributed a flyer to answer most residents' questions. According to the flyer:

The project consists of installing waterlines throughout the Village of Buckeye Lake. Millersport will supply water to the system through a main line at the western edge of the village. A water pumping station and a storage tank are also parts of the project. The pumps, water tower, and water transmission line will be large enough to accommodate future growth.

Construction is expected to start early next year and take about a year to complete. In order to ensure the treated water in the new system remains safe, no connections between existing wells and the new water distribution system will be permitted.

A contractor will build the village's distribution system. Individual service connections will installed at property lines. Property owners can help select the connection point if they contact the village.

Property owners are responsible for installing water lines from the service connections to their homes. Residents can do the job themselves or hire a contractor of their choice to do the work. Some financial assistance may be available to low-income property owners. Since each individual connection is unique, no cost estimates were offered at the meeting. Detailed specifications are available at the village office for property owners considering doing the work themselves.

Customers must abandon their wells or at least disconnect them from their internal plumbing. A resident estimated that well abandonment would cost about $150. Residents retaining their wells will also be required to install a reduced pressure backflow preventer to their plumbing to ensure there is no cross connection with untreated well water.

A resident estimated that a backflow preventer would cost roughly $100, plus installation. However, the backflow preventer must be inspected at installation and yearly, which would cost about $75 per inspection. Foster said after all is said and done it would probably cost residents less money just to use public water for everything.

Roush said it may be advantageous for people who intend to build on vacant lots to give them access to water when the distribution system is installed. Owners will need to pay a monthly debt service fee of approximately $40 regardless of whether a house is on the property, but the owners will save what could be a $5,000 tap fee when the house is built.

"It's our intention to put taps to each lot, anyway," said Foster.

Several residents wondered what would happen if only 400 or so residents signed up for water. If that happens, Foster said the village would need to "weigh the decision" to have a public water system, but he seriously doubted that would happen. "I believe we will get a lot of people to sign up on the system," he said.

Others asked about the condominiums being built at the Landings at Maple Bay, and its water supply. Foster said a maximum of 100 condominiums will receive public water from Licking County for 10 years. After 10 years, they will become part of the Buckeye Lake system. Tap fees will not be charged since have already committed to join the village system and the distribution system is in place. In the meantime, Foster said the village is receiving tax revenue from the new condominiums while only providing them minimal services. "It's not one-sided," said he added.

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