Commissioners continue to jawbone Thornville
NEW LEXINGTON – Perry County Commissioners have now formally announced that they are seeking another operator to provide waste water treatment for the county-owned North Perry County wastewater collection system.
The Village of Thornville currently provides waste water treatment for the system. Commissioners state that Perry County is considering Licking County’s sewer services.
According to a letter sent to Northern Perry County Water & Wastewater customers, “As you may already be aware from recent newspaper articles, the Perry County Commissioners have attempted to renegotiate a contract for sewer facilities for the Thornport/Buckeye Lake region of Northern Perry County & Wastewater with officials of the Village of Thornville. To date, these negotiations have failed, and the county commissioners have decided to reach out to other agencies for possible service of the northern region of Perry County.
“It is the ultimate goal of the commissioners to provide necessary sanitary services to the residents of Perry County without placing a huge financial burden on them, even if this means leaving Perry County for such services.
“Meetings have been held between the Perry County Commissioners and officials of the Licking County Water and Wastewater Department to discuss the possibility of hooking onto their system as opposed to remaining on the Thornville system. Be assured that if and when any decisions are made regarding this change, they will be thoughtfully considered and discussed to assure the best interests of all Perry County residents are met.”
Feb. 17, the Thornville Village Council voted 3 to 2 to continue with the current 15-year contract after county officials asked council members to drop a compounding five percent increase in annual payments.
In 2007, former county commissioners Thad Cooperrider, Fred Shriner, and Lonnie Wood approved a contract to pay $50,000 that year for Thornville’s sewer service. When the contract ends in 2022, Perry County will be paying Thornville $98,996.58 a year thanks to the compounding five percent annual increases.
Licking County Water and Wastewater Department Director Kevin Eby confirmed he met with Perry County officials in March, but at this point they are still determining costs, such as Licking County sewer rate, tie in point, and construction costs according to the tie in point.
“No formal action has taken place,” said Perry County Engineer Mitch Altier.
Thornville Administrator Beth Patrick said previously she believes the county would fulfill the roughly eight years remaining on its contract with Thornville.
Thornville Village Council member Mary Renner, who voted against altering the contract, explained in an email to The Beacon why she wouldn’t agree to change it. “Unfortunately, the county has over extended itself in its development of our water and sewer infrastructure. The truth is that our public officials have to realize that they have to work within a budget. If you do not have the funds to pay back loans for projects, don’t start the project. I understand that most of these projects were done to meet EPA mandates. I also know that the EPA will work with communities through action plans in order to not bankrupt a community.
“The village had to learn that lesson almost 10 years ago when almost every one of the Village’s funds were working in the red. It was not easy turning things around but with the help of our Fiscal Officer Melissa Tremblay, and the dedication of our employees and elected officials we were able to fix the situation.
“The village does have a surplus in its water and sewer funds. However, in our current contract with the county all updates and repairs to the Village’s water and sewer system that are not EPA mandated are at the sole cost to the village. When needed the village uses its reserve funds to pay for these projects.
“I understand that customers on the Northern Perry County Water and Sewer system have very high bills. However, I do not feel that is at the fault of the village. According to the commissioners’ own numbers, the minimum monthly water sewer bill to the Northern Perry County customer is $100. Of that amount only about $16.98 is going to the village. When asked if a change to the contract would allow for a reduction in the customers bill, the answer was no.
“Just last year the village modified its water and sewer rate structure. The additional revenue will be used to offset the ever-increasing cost of doing business. I do not believe it is fair to our village residence that less than a year after increasing their monthly bills we turn around and reduce the amount received by the county. In the end I felt that I had to vote in the interest of the village residents.”