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Buckeye Lake may resell water to Licking County

BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Village, which hasn’t had public water for 30 years, may soon be in the water business.

Mayor Frank Foster announced during Monday night’s village council meeting that the village is negotiating to provide bulk water to Licking County. The county would distribute the water to roughly 400 customers primarily in Harbor Hills, who are currently served with bulk water the county purchases from Hebron.

“We would merely be selling bulk water to Licking County Water and Wastewater and they would continue to be the supplier to their customers just as they are now,” said Foster Tuesday. “The Village of Buckeye Lake would merely have one more customer – Licking County Water and Wastewater.”

Buckeye Lake Village is currently installing a public water distribution system. The bulk treated water will be supplied by the Village of Millersport’s new water treatment plant. Hebron’s 20-year contract to provide bulk water to the county expires Dec. 31, 2010.

Foster said Licking County approached the village about a year ago asking if the Village of Buckeye Lake could supply bulk water when the Hebron contract expires. “We have been discussing this with them ever since and a contract with them looks likely,” he said, adding that the village’s water would serve 100 taps at the Landings at Maple Bay that the county serves.

“Buckeye Lake hasn’t talked to us, and I’m not sure they would,” said Hebron Village Administrator Mike McFarland. He said he and the Hebron Village Council members are aware of the negotiations and Hebron is also negotiating to continue its 20-year contract with the county. “We’re just treating it as a business issue,” he said.

“We’re willing to consider whatever’s good for Millersport,” said Millersport Village Council President Dave Levacy. “There needs to be some consideration for Hebron.”

He said there are still details to be worked out, but Buckeye Lake can purchase up to 600,000 gallons of water per day from Millersport and if Buckeye Lake wishes to sell some of it, then that’s Buckeye Lake’s decision.

However, Levacy was clear that Millersport would not allow Buckeye Lake to sell its bulk water west of Buckeye Lake Village, because Millersport may want to serve that area itself. He said Millersport couldn’t feasibly serve the areas east of the lake. Also, Buckeye Lake can’t distribute more water than what the contract allows and the village would need to reserve some capacity for future growth within the village.

Foster estimated the village would have 170,000 gallons per day of capacity left over after serving the county and the village.

“We’ve been exploring continuing with Hebron, but their price is going up,” said Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb. “We’re just looking for the best deal for our customers.” He said Hebron’s contract lasts through next year; so the county’s not under immediate pressure to decide. Still, Bubb doesn’t want the situation to become a contentious battle between Buckeye Lake and Hebron. “It’s not a done deal yet,” he said.

In a related issue, Foster told council members that the village is discussing sharing an electronic meter reading system with the Energy Cooperative. “They are installing the same tower read Flex Net system we are and we have overlapping zones, allowing each entity to mutually benefit from each other’s services,” he said. “We are in the infancy of these discussions but hopeful they could yield benefits for all involved.”

The Buckeye Lake system could read some of the Energy Cooperative’s meters, so the cooperative wouldn’t need a tower in Buckeye Lake. In turn, Buckeye Lake would use some of the cooperative’s data storage capability for the village’s information.

In other council news:

• Council voted to use Licking County’s new building code inspection office, which starts up early next year, for residential code inspection, but the village will continue to work with the State of Ohio for commercial inspections.

Commissioners plan to take over building code plan reviews, inspections and enforcement duties from the City of Newark, whose building code department ran into financial problems when construction almost stopped during the recent recession. The department shuts down next month. Buckeye Lake has used Newark’s office for its residential code enforcement.

Foster supported using Licking County for both residential and commercial, however Toby Miller, Buckeye Lake Fire Department fire prevention officer, argued that the state has a large and proven commercial inspection office. He said the county would need to prove itself as a commercial inspector and demonstrate that its commercial inspector isn’t simply a residential inspection convert. “Commercial codes are much more stringent,” he said. “The state’s been there for us.”

Council member Jeryne Peterson said Licking County is the second largest in terms of area in Ohio and she doubted the county’s ability to cover inspections with a four-person staff and contract employees. “It’s a start-up,” she said.

However, council member A. Kaye Hartman said she dealt with the state when she was trying to open a business. “It was like pulling teeth” to convince the state to send an inspector in a timely manner. She suggested signing up the county for a year.

Council President Charlene Hayden said she was willing to give the county a try.

Buckeye Lake Zoning Inspector Bob Jordan said the state never provided a bad code inspection. “Stay with the state,” he said.

Peterson and council members Jim Bartoe, Donna Thompson, and Hilde Hildebrandt voted against using the county for commercial inspections, while Hartman and Hayden voted in favor.

As far as residential inspections, it’s the county or no one, and council members unanimously agreed to use the new county office.

Bubb said Tuesday that he appreciates the village using the county office for residential and hopes the council will reconsider using the office for commercial in the future. “It’s up to the county for us to prove ourselves,” he said.

“We’ll always be there,” said Licking County Commissioner Brad Feightner, who said the inspection service is free to the village.

“We can talk about the commercial later,” said Bubb.

• Thompson said the village’s telephone pole Christmas decorations are in really bad shape. Unfortunately, replacing them can cost up to $250 for each decoration. Holiday lights were donated last year, but the pole decorations are nearly unusable.

Resident Donna Braig, present at Monday night’s meeting, said the Southgate Corporation donated the pole decorations to the village nearly 20 years ago.

Foster said the village should begin a fund drive for new decorations, but he didn’t think enough money could be raised until next year.

Peterson said the community development committee would work on finding ways to raise money for new decorations. In the meantime, maybe wreathes and bows would be good substitutes, she said.

• The village received two foreclosed properties at 42 Sixth Avenue and 138 Second Street that didn’t sell at Sheriff’s auction. Foster said the village is not responsible for any back taxes and may auction them off after the first of the year.

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