2012-07-14 / News

Water rate hike shouldn’t affect Buckeye Lake

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Mayor Rick Baker said Monday night that he doesn’t believe an increase in the cost of water from the Village of Millersport will affect Buckeye Lake customers. Buckeye Lake purchases bulk water from Millersport.

Millersport Mayor Dean Severance announced June 28 that in accordance with their contract with the Village of Buckeye Lake, the cost of bulk water will increase from $3.15 to $3.90 per 1,000 gallons, effective Jan. 1, 2013. “We look forward to both our villages’ mutual and continued success with this agreement,” said Severance in the announcement.

“I don’t think we need to raise water rates,” said Baker. “We’re in pretty good shape.” He said he was expecting the rate hike and believes the Buckeye Lake water department is in good enough shape financially to absorb the cost increase without passing it on to customers.

Council President Charlene Hayden agreed. “Our water department account is pretty healthy at this time,” she said. “After all, we have been paying our employees who work under that account a mere pittance for doing their jobs. Since we didn’t have any previous experience in running a water department, we wanted to be conservative with salaries.”

She said village administrators also didn’t know how many customers would connect to the distribution system. “Even though Millersport has raised the cost of the water, we are in good enough shape to absorb that for the time being,” said Hayden. “I don’t think there is anyone on council who believes we should raise our water rates.”

In other village news:

• Council member Kaye Hartman said the finance committee recommend that the newly formed water supervisor position remain part-time through the end of the year. However, since Buckeye Lake Water Tech Toby Miller, whom Baker plans to appoint to the water supervisor position, achieved his Class 1 operator license certification, Hartman said committee members agree that Miller should make $15 per hour.

Some residents and council members objected to the new position’s original $45,000 starting salary, which would make it the highest paying position in the village. The position, as originally created, is full time.

“I believe we have council members who do not really understand the total responsibilities that go along with the position of a water supervisor,” said Hayden. “Some of those members are on the finance committee and some are not. It has been very frustrating for me to see all we have built with regards to our water department be diminished by the desire to either pay our current water supervisor a poor salary or hire a person who will accept a low salary.”

• Baker said he spoke to Newark Mayor Jeff Hall about helping the Village of Buckeye Lake front money to take advantage of the Move Ohio Forward Grant program and demolish some uninhabitable Buckeye Lake Village homes.

Newark Department of Community Development grant writer Barbara Gilkes, who is administrating the program locally, said previously that she believes Buckeye Lake Village can receive grant money – some requiring matching funds, some not – toward the more than 20 demolitions of derelict homes that Baker wants to remove.

However, Buckeye Lake will need to determine the costs for demolition and associated expenses such as asbestos inspections and possible abatement and title searches; and then pay it up front. The grant program would then reimburse the village’s actual expenditures less any matching fund committments. Gilkes said the village has shown “great commitment” toward securing as much of the grant money as possible.

Baker is unsure if the Buckeye Lake Village Council would be willing to front the necessary money to take advantage of the program.

“I think we need a few more facts and discussion before any of us can determine if it is feasible to front the money for the houses,” said Hayden. She said it would be discussed at the July 16 finance committee meeting. “So, until we have that discussion, I wouldn’t even try to guess what other council members are thinking,” she said.

• Union Township resident Amy Deeds told council she represents a group of township residents seeking a greenspace levy to purchase land or its development rights to control development in Union Township. She said Union Township Trustees asked the group to contact the villages of Hebron and Buckeye Lake for their opinions.

“It’s intended to give the trustees a method to direct development,” she said. “Agriculture is Ohio’s largest business,” and greenspace levy supporters want to protect the land.

“We are encouraging development for sure, but sometimes you can get developers to put green spaces in areas close to where they are building which is one way they can give back to the community,” said Hayden Tuesday. “We asked the people who were developing the property on Hunts Landing Road (the bankrupt Landings at Maple Bay) to dedicate some space for a potential park area. They agreed to do that but, as we know, the development never happened.” She said Baker discussed looking at some of the village’s empty lots for green spaces, or small park areas, throughout the village. “That would be great if we can afford to have the lots without buildings and additional taxes,” said Hayden. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the green spaces for Union Township.”

• Council Clerk Valerie Hans said the village’s renewal fire levy, slated for the November ballot, would generate $228,000 annually in revenue. Previously, Licking County Deputy Auditor Cindy Haas said the village’s five mill, five-year fire levy expires at the end of this year. It will be collected through 2013.

Currently, Buckeye Lake Village property owners pay $151.74 annually per $100,000 of valuation. “If they renew it, it will stay at that,” said Haas.

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