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New mayor opposes public water plan

KIRKERSVILLE- Kirkersville’s new mayor has his doubts about a public water system. “I’m against this water,” said Mayor Terry Ashcraft Friday. “There’s something not right, there.” Ashcraft, who was mayor previously, defeated incumbent Bennie Evans in November’s election. However, Evans was appointed to council to fulfillthe two remaining years of former council member Bobbi Miller’s term. Miller and her family moved out of state at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday night was the first village council meeting of Ashcraft’s repeat stint as mayor of Kirkersville, and Evans’ first meeting as a member of council after being mayor. Evans’ administration negotiated with the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District to bring public water to Kirkersville, but never reached a signed contract before Ashcraft became mayor. Council is currently moving through the required three readings of an ordinance that would allow the village to enter into a contract with Southwest Licking. Wednesday night was its second reading. It will have its third and final reading during the Feb. 6 council meeting, although there’s a 30 day period following when the ordinance may be contested. Currently, the village has a public sewer system, but not a public water system.

Council member Evans wanted to know Wednesday night what Ashcraft and the two new council members, Erika Mudd and Gary Raines, thought about public water.

Mudd said that she and other residents are “nervous” about public water because it will raise expenses for everyone, including raising her rent.

“We’re the one’s paying for it,” said Raines, who suggested placing the issue on the ballot.

“Let the developers pay for the water,” said Ashcraft. He said he doesn’t believe the village has heard from enough of its residents to determine whether the majority of the people favor public water. He mentioned a village survey, whereby failure to return the completed survey to the village was considered a “yes” vote on that resident’s part, and a recent door to door survey which Ashcraft said missed many residents. “We’ve got $11,000 in back sewer bills,” he said, wondering how Kirkersville residents can afford public water if they can’t afford the sewer bills they are currently paying, particularly those residents on fixed incomes.

“We can’t retire the village because we have people on fixed incomes,” said Evans.

A resident who was in favor of public water said that renters within the village shouldn’t have a say in whether a public water system is installed.

Resident Theresa Green, who owns rental properties, said that renters will face an increase in rent with public water service. She was also concrened that public water would bring more people to the village, which would force the construction of larger schools and higher school taxes.

Village engineer Gary Silcott, senior associate with R.D. Zande & Associates, Inc. who has worked diligently to acquire public water for Kirkersville, said Southwest Licking is willing to forego its usual $4,500 individual tap fee if the village signs a contract soon. He also reminded that the ordinance, which just received its second reading, will allow the entire village to acquire water service eventually, but currently there are only plans to supply water to the Ohio 158 corridor, or phase one, which includes the Flying J Truck Stop, Phantom Fireworks, Kirkersville Elementary School, and several parcels proposed for development. “It’s not going to get any cheaper,” said Silcott.

Previously, Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District General Manager Donald Rector said the businesses and developers using the water lines would pay for the majority of the phase one infrastructure.

Phase two would service the rest of the village, said Rector, but phase two would be on hold indefinitelyas the district works to findgrant money to subsidize village infrastructure construction.

Ashcraft said during Wednesday’s meeting that none of the council members has attended the meetings between the village and Southwest Licking Water and Sewer, which makes him wonder how knowledgeable all of council is about the process. Bottom line, he said, is he’s not ready to lend his support to a public water system yet. “We’re not going to get it for $30 a month,” he said.

Wednesday night, Evans said it was a pleasure to have Ashcraft back as mayor. Ashcraft acknowledged the comment, but replied, “I’m not going to be pushed around.”

In other council news:

• Ashcraft said the following people are on the village planning and zoning board: John Thomas, Mary Hickey, Sharon Temple, Ron Sager, and Ashcraft is a nonvoting member, unless to break a tie. For the board of zoning appeals Todd Miller, Dent Dailey, Bill Magley, Eric Klingerman, and Roy Flowers.

• Council renewed Village Solicitor Deb Kenny’s contract at $100 per hour.

• Council agreed to repair damage to a village police cruiser, which sustained damage during a pursuit last summer on I-70 which ended near Brownsville. Of the $2,500 of repairs needed, insurance will cover about half.

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