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Customers likely to lose 2,000 ‘free’ gallons in base rates

THORNVILLE – Nothing’s free, particularly water and sewer service in Thornville.

Outgoing Thornville Administrator Chad Wilkins said village council is working on an ordinance to change water and sewer rates to eliminate the 2,000 gallons of water and sewer service, included in the respective base fees. Otherwise, the rates will likely stay the same. He said the ordinance would likely be discussed, and could come to a vote at the Nov. 12 village council meeting.

“They’re going to raise the rates; there’s no doubt about that,” said Wilkins. “It’s the free that’s gone.”

Currently, in-town water customers pay $12 per month for the first 2,000 gallons and $1.15 per additional 1,000 gallons. In-town sewer customers pay $17.50 for the first 2,000 gallons and $5 per 1,000 gallons additional. Sewer customers also pay $40 per month for an OWDA loan and a $3 storm sewer fee. The current minimum bill for water and sewer service is $72.50 per month.

Wilkins said the proposal is to charge for the initial 2,000 gallons of water and sewer usage, which is currently included in the $12 and $17.50 base charges for water and sewer respectively. The base charges wouldn’t change, but would no longer include the first 2,000 gallons of water and sewer service each month. Customers would likely be charged $1.15 per 1,000 gallons of water used across the board and charged $5 per 1,000 gallons of sewer service across the board. Sewer customers also continue to pay the $40 and $3 sewer fees.

Wilkins said there has been no discussion of rate changes to outof town water and sewer customers. Currently, they pay $25.20 for the first 2,000 gallons of water service and each additional 1,000 gallons costs $2.42. Out-of-town sewer customers pay $35 for the first 2,000 gallons and $10 for each additional 1,000 gallons. They also pay the $40 OWDA fee.

Previously, Mayor Gavin Renner said one reason for the water and sewer rate changes is to place the village in a better position to acquire grant money and loans for future maintenance and replacement projects. Another goal is to handle regular cost increases triggered by EPA requirements on staffing, testing, and chemical treatment.

Additionally, Renner said the village has several water and sewer projects. They include taking on a maintenance agreement for the water tower and an I&I project to reduce storm water infiltration into the sewer system. “Our village’s sewer system lines are aging,” said Renner. “Portions may need to be replaced as time goes on.” He said wastewater from some areas in the village must be pumped to the treatment plant. The pumps require regular maintenance.

“Our current rates cover costs for the here and now, but don’t position the village for future needs,” Renner said.

In other Thornville news:

• John D. Harker, an attorney with the Lancaster firm of Stebelton, Aranda & Snider, told village officials in an Oct. 25 letter that he represents former Thorn Township Trustee Tim Phipps, who purchased the former Thorn Township Fire Department building at 25 E. Columbus St. from Thorn Township. It was discovered after its purchase that the village owns half the property.

Previously, Renner said that in 2011 the township advertised and “sold” the property. The title search for that sale allegedly did not uncover the dual ownership issue. When Phipps tried to sell the building, the dual ownership was discovered. “Our village solicitor has confirmed that the village does own one-half undivided interest in the former firehouse,” he said. Additionally, Renner said the solicitor confirmed that in order for the village to dispose of its one-half undivided interest, it must follow the process for dispo- sition of property outlined in Ohio Revised Code. “The village isn’t under any obligation to sell the property,” said Renner. “We are obligated to follow the process should we choose that option.”

“While I would hope for some settlement in this case, I have notified (Perry County Prosecutor Joe Flautt), in representing the trustees, as well as the title agency, etc.,” said Harker in his letter. “Unfortunately, any settlement must include return of purchase price money in its entirety, as well as repayment of the remodeling expenses that went into the building.”

Harker continued, “While I understand you may believe there’s no liability on part of the village, if a settlement cannot be achieved, then a lawsuit must be filed that includes all potential parties from the realtor, title agency, etc., as well as the Thorn Township Trustees and (the Village of Thornville).

“While I will attempt to secure a settlement in this case, I am just starting and not extremely confident that a full settlement can be achieved short of a lawsuit, however, any suggestions that you or your counsel have will be sincerely appreciated,” said Harker.

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