2009-10-17 / News

Public water proposed for Flying J

By Scott Rawdon

KIRKERSVILLE – Some Kirkersville Village Council members fear providing the Flying J truck stop with public water could eventually destroy Kirkersville’s rural nature.

Ohio EPA and Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District representatives attended the Oct. 7 Kirkersville Village Council meeting to ask council members their opinions about the Southwest Licking district possibly providing public water exclusively to Flying J.

Mike Baker, chief of the Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Waters, told council that the Flying J’s existing water system is “stretched beyond its capacity” and federal stimulus money may be available to pay for at least half of a water line from Southwest Licking to the truck stop. Baker said the Ohio EPA has “concerns” with the Flying J’s existing water system and the village would be charged nothing to install the water line.

Last November, Kirkersville voters overturned council’s decision to contract with Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District to provide public water to properties along Ohio 158 – including the Flying J Travel Center, Phantom Fireworks, Kirkersville Elementary School, and several parcels proposed for development – by a vote of 179 to 90.

Southwest Licking Director Don Rector said the truck stop’s existing water system has a 100,000 gallon capacity, but it’s required to have at least 50,000 gallons of water in the system at all times for fire protection. The Flying J has additional fresh water delivered in addition to the water produced on site.

“Once the Flying J has (public water), every Tom, Dick, and Harry will have it,” said council member Sherry Temple.

“There’s a lot in it for Kirkersville,” said Rector. He said installing the water line would save the village $500,000 if the village ever opts to install water lines in the future. He said no residents or businesses could be forced to connect with the water line to the Flying J.

“I need to know what the plans are,” said Temple, who wondered if the Flying J planned to grow.

Council member Gary Raines asked how the Kirkersville sewer plant would be affected if the water line is installed or if the truck stop expanded.

Baker said there are no plans to expand the Flying J.

Buckeye Lake resident and former Kirkersville council member Bonnie Mansfield, present at the meeting, said, “People already said no to the water. Why is the EPA involved now?”

Bill Fischbein, supervising attorney for water programs for the Ohio EPA, said they were at the meeting to address the Ohio EPA director’s concerns.

“What does a vote of the people mean?” said Mansfield.

Baker said he was sorry if anyone perceived his presence at the council meeting as a threat, and he wasn’t aware of the referendum. He said he was there to support a public health project. Ohio EPA is involved now, said Baker, because federal funding recently became available and the Ohio EPA director is deciding who will receive it.

Bobbie O’ Keefe, an attorney speaking on Southwest Licking’s behalf, said the referendum prohibited Southwest Licking from serving Kirkersville residents, and the Flying J waterline would not serve Kirkersville.

“I’m very negative about this,” said Temple. She said she knows three developers who are ready to build on sites near the Flying J whenever public water becomes available.

Tuesday, Rector said the district is committed to working with the village on this project. He said the Ohio 310 and I-70 interchange has had water service for years without major development and he doubts access to public water would significantly affect the Ohio 158 and I-70 in- tersection, where the Flying J is located. “I don’t foresee any massive development,” said Rector. “No one’s knocking at my door to build there.” Also, he said, Kirkersville’s sewer plant has limited capacity, which would discourage development.

Rector said the Flying J strongly needs public water to maintain its business and he’s willing to work with all parties to reach an agreement everyone can accept.

Tuesday, Mayor Terry Ashcraft said village solicitor Brian Zeta said the village has the authority to pass an ordinance requiring Southwest Licking to obtain the village’s permission before installing water lines within Kirkersville’s limits.

We’re incorporated,” he said.

The council was to have a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, to discuss a possible ordinance and the Flying J water situation.

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