2010-03-06 / News

Hebron approves new water contract with county

HEBRON – It took a real sharp pencil, but in the end Hebron bested the Village of Buckeye Lake’s efforts to replace Hebron as the bulk water supplier for Licking County’s water system serving Harbor Hills and Lakewood Schools.

Hebron has been supplying bulk water to Licking County since 1991 via a contract expiring at the end of this year. That contract provided that the county pay 1.5 times the in-village rate. Recently, Hebron’s rates have been increasing at a faster pace due to the costs of doubling the treatment plant’s capacity just as consumption unexpectantly declined. Higher costs and lower volumes forced Hebron to increase rates.

The decision to double treatment plant capacity to two million gallons per day was made when summer consumption rates came very close to the then one million gallons per day capacity. Water usage has now fallen well below one million gallons per day.

Licking County Commissioners said Buckeye Lake officials approached them last fall about selling bulk water, offering a price of $5.25 per 1,000 gallons. That’s just $2 per 1,000 gallons above Buckeye Lake’s purchase deal with the Village of Millersport. Buckeye Lake proposed a 17 year contract term and also asked the county to provide the required licensed operator for the new Buckeye Lake water system.

Hebron objected to Buckeye Lake proposing a rate that is heavily subsidized by the village’s $5 million stimulus grant and low or no interest loans. In a Dec. 24 letter to commissioners, Hebron Village Administrator Mike Mc- Farland wrote, “It does not seem that the award (stimulus grant) was expected to be used to inflict financial hardship on a very supportive neighbor.”

Loss of the Licking County volume would force Hebron to push rates even higher for in-village and industrial park customers. That was unacceptable, so Hebron matched the Buckeye Lake price.

That bulk price represents 83 percent of the in-village rate. Mc- Farland notes that’s it’s a reasonable price in relation to village rates since Hebron submits one monthly bill to the county, doesn’t have any collection or bad debt issues and most importantly, isn’t responsible for maintaining the county’s distribution lines.

The new 10-year contract is effective April 15, 2010. The county’s price is set at 83 percent of the in-village rate.

Hebron Council members unanimously approved the new contract on Feb. 24. County commissioners approved it March 2.

The announced rate increase effective April 15 for Licking County water customers will stand, probably until August or September. That gives the county the opportunity to make up its losses when Hebron’s rates went up Jan. 1. The April 15 rate increase will be rolled back completely, commissioners said and rates could drop below 2009’s, dependent on a detailed cost analysis. “It is a great deal for our customers,” Commission President Tim Bubb said Tuesday. “Competition is a wonderful thing.”

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