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Buckeye Lake, Hebron officials will continue water talks

HEBRON – Buckeye Lake residents could be closer to affordable public water now than any time in recent memory.

More than a dozen Buckeye Lake and Hebron officials discussed the pros and cons of a potential water supply agreement between the two villages on May 29 in Hebron Village Council chambers. All three Licking County Commissioners were in audience and two representatives from Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Water participated in the discussion. Kevin Eby, interim director of the Licking County Water and Wastewater Department, also took part. Former Granville Village Administrator and now professional governmental consultant Doug Plunkett moderated the meeting.

The basics are in place. Hebron has significantspare capacity. The village recently completed a water treatment plant expansion based on 20-year projections. Plant capacity is 2.2 million gallons per day. Hebron’s daily demand, including the up-to 120,000 gallons per day sold to Licking County, is about 650,000 gallons per day. Most of the water sold to Licking County is for Harbor Hills.

Buckeye Lake estimates it will need 300 – 350,000 gallons a day to serve some 800-900 customers.

Plunkett told participants that two issues were off limits – past history and specific contract details. Each participant had been asked before the meeting to outline the advantages, disadvantages and possible obstacles to a possible water sale agreement.

Advantages included:

+ Contract income could help Hebron pay off its 20-year loan faster;

+ Buckeye Lake wouldn’t have to build a treatment plant;

+ Buckeye Lake residents would get water quicker;

+ Buckeye lake’s operational and maintenance expenses would be lower and the overall costs for the system would be lower;

+ Buckeye Lake would be able to supply water to the new development on the former Bounds Farm;

+ Both villages would benefit from additional economic development;

+ Buckeye Lake’s system would be easier to operate;

+ Ohio EPA would look more favorably on a regional water system as opposed to multiple single-entity systems;

+ Hebron increases its customer base which reduces maintenance and upgrade costs on a per customer basis;

+ More customers mean lower rates per customer;

+ Public water in Buckeye Lake could increase business and tourist trade in the area;

+ Buckeye Lake Village has a better opportunity to get grants and low/no interest loans than Hebron; and

+ Could get public water quicker to Buckeye Lake residents alleviating concerns about contaminated water.

Disadvantages include:

+ Hebron could use up capacity quicker than originally planned;

+ Could restrict growth for the Village of Buckeye Lake;

+ Decreased autonomy for Village of Buckeye Lake;

+ Could require large up front payment from Village of Buckeye Lake;

+ Implications on annexation to Hebron;

+ Who gets customer tap fees – Buckeye Lake or Hebron;

+ Hebron would have less spare capacity to offer to others;

+ Concerns about Village of Buckeye Lake’s ability to pay Hebron for water;

+ Impact of increasing demand for water in the Village of Buckeye Lake;

+ Buckeye Lake expansion could be limited;

+ Concerns about lack of consensus in Buckeye Lake; and

+ Costs would be out of Buckeye Lake’s control.

Obstacles include:

+ Need a guarantee that Buckeye Lake can pay for water purchases;

+ Running a water line under I-70 could be very costly;

+ Buckeye Lake would be at the mercy of Hebron;

+ Possible disputes about service area rights;

+ Current 150 percent surcharge for Hebron water sold outside the village limits;

+ Buckeye Lake wants to build its own system;

+ Negotiation of a fair rate structure for water, particularly given the high percentage of Buckeye Lake residents with moderate to low incomes;

+ Buckeye Lake should first negotiate with Licking County, then they can negotiate with Hebron;

+ Meeting schedules;

+ Cost of building a water line to Buckeye Lake would be an added cost should Buckeye Lake ever build its own plant; and

+ Convincing Hebron citizens that an agreement with Buckeye Lake is to their advantage and doesn’t jeopardize them.

Plunkett provided opportunities to discuss each advantage, disadvantage and obstacle further. Those comments were limited and no additional points were added. Discussion actually wrapped up earlier than the scheduled twohours, allowing audience members to comment.

Commissioner Marcia Phelps suggested that each council consider a resolution to proceed with fact-finding and potential negotiation of a contract. Hebron expects to consider such a resolution at its June 13 council meeting.

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