2009-01-31 / News

Information gushes out at water meeting

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE - A Monday night meeting detailing Buckeye Lake Village's plans to create a public water system covered little new ground from previous water meetings, but it appeared many more people were listening this time.

A curious crowd nearly filled Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church's social hall as several local government officials and project engineers told residens what to expect in the months ahead as Buckeye Lake prepares to construct a distribution system for public water supplied by the Village of Millersport.

John Rauch, state field coordinator for the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program, told the crowd it's impossible to guarantee a specific monthly water bill at this point, even though the village is nearing its goal of signing up 900 users. He estimated users would pay about $42 per month for 1,500 gallons of water and $5.25 per 1,000 gallons beyond 1,500 gallons per month. "I can't guarantee what your rates are going to be," he said.

There's a chance the village may sign up 1,000 users or more by the time work begins on the $7.2 million project, which would lower everyone's rates. He doesn't want people to pay too much, he said, but at the same time paying too little can be just as bad. If rates are too low, the water system may be "starved," where the rates are not high enough to maintain the system, leading to a huge rate hike in a few years. Rauch estimated the Buckeye Lake water system would cost about $260,000 per year to maintain.

Rauch said Millersport will charge Buckeye Lake $3.15 per 1,000 gallons. That rate can increase, but only when Millersport raises rates for its own residents.

Rauch said the nearly 900 customers who have signed onto the Buckeye Lake system are wise to do so. The village is waiving the fee to connect to the water system until Feb. 27; earlier Monday, council members agreed to extend the Jan. 29 deadline. That fee, called a tap fee, could be more than $5,000 per property for a customer who decides to sign onto the water system after Feb. 27.

Buckeye Lake Mayor Frank Foster said neither of the village's large trailer parks - Leisure Village and Buckeye Lake Estates - has signed up for water. He warned that both parks would pay "extraordinary" tap fees if their owners decide to sign up after Feb. 27. Both parks have waited to sign up because they both have their own small, independent water distribution systems.

According to a flyer from the village's engineering firm, construction is expected to begin this June and take about a year to complete. The contractor will install more than 12 miles of water lines throughout the village. A copy of the plans is available at the village office. The contractor will place water taps where residents want them if property owners contact the village.

Property owners are responsible for installing service lines from their homes or businesses to the distribution system. The village secured a $100,000 grant to help financially needy property owners cover the expense. "There are strings on this money," said Beth Jones, community development specialist with the Licking County Planning Commission. There are maximum income limits and land contract buyers are not eligible. Jones said assistance applications won't be accepted until about six months before the system is completed. The best idea for those interested, she said, is to contact her at the Licking County Planning Commission. "I do the rest," said Jones.

The flyer also stated that public water customers may completely abandon their wells or keep them in service. If a well is retained, it must be completely disconnected from the property's plumbing. Abandoning a well requires removal of the pressure tank, control and all plumbing connecting it to the building. The well itself must be sealed and filled with a suitable material, like concrete.

Anyone keeping a well to water lawns/ gardens or wash cars/boats must also install an Ohio EPA approved reduced pressure backflow preventer, which is basically a valve to prevent any well water from entering and possibly polluting the public water distribution system. The backflow preventer must be installed immediately after the water meter and must be accompanied by a thermal expansion tank between the hot water tank and the backflow preventer. A certified Ohio Department of Commerce or Ohio EPA inspector must test the backflow preventer upon installation and annually. The inspection costs roughly $75.

Ohio EPA Environmental Specialist Susan Applegate said keeping a well might not save money. Public water is only $5.25 per 1,000 gallons after the projected $42 minimum charge per month for up to 1,500 gallons.

Foster said new wells are now prohibited, but property owners don't have to connect to the public system. Those who do not sign up for water and maintain their existing wells will not be charged for public water or the water distribution system in any way. He reminded residents that they save $5,000 by signing up before Feb. 27.

Foster added billing will likely be outsourced. Meters will be read electronically by a passing vehicle and transmitted to a billing office. No one will go onto private property to read meters.

"It should be very simple," he said.

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