Thurston’s 604 residents have for 35 years contracted for water from Baltimore, 1.3 miles away. Currently, a dispute is occurring and Baltimore is threatening to cut off the flow. Thurston owns the eight-inch supply line along Ohio 256 between the villages. Thurston says that a snag is that Baltimore wants to buy the water line as far east as Ohio 37 to serve future businesses. Thurston wanted only to negotiate water rates.
Baltimore threatens to turn off the water to Thurston in 2014, but hopes to continue talks. Thurston seems to have lost hope in talking. It has committed $100,000 to its consulting engineer, GGC Company of Gahanna, to plan a new, eight-inch line from Millersport. The new line would be 5.3 miles long, following Ohio 204 and Ohio 37 to the intersection of Ohio 37 and Ohio 256. Along Ohio 37, plans are for the line mostly to be on the east side of the road. The total cost of the job is approximately $1.2 million, which GGC says can come from grants and a loan.
Thurston officials say they originally wanted to build their own water system but could not arrange it financially. Thurston has to have water. Baltimore wants development, particularly businesses, east of town, but there are other issues here, and no one, not Walnut Township, not Fairfield County, not Regional Planning, is speaking out about them.
The key issues are highway safety, especially along Ohio 377 with its heavy, fast moving traffic, and also the current agricultural use of most of the adjoining land. A water line could lead to a series of township rezoning actions that could transform that part of Ohio 37 to resemble Ohio 79 heading from Hebron to Newark.
A few years ago, Fairfield County invested thousands and county leaders gave many hours creating a master plan that laid out land using designations in cluding farmland. The best soils were identified by a formula that used soil types and a history of crop yields. Walnut Township has some of the best soils in the county.
A new water line would basically be intended for Thurston’s use, but the village would permit tap-ons along Ohio 37 if residents’ wells were failing. Village officials say their intention is not to promote residential or commercial development. A new line would run through an Agricultural Security Area in the vicinity of Ohio 37 and Bickel Church Road. ASAs prohibit such lines in farming areas but currently not along state highway right of way. Letters have gone out from GGC to residents along Ohio 37, saying that damage to crops or tiling would be promptly repaired.
Is it worth $1.2 million to Thurston to walk away from a 1.3 mile water line to build a new one 5.3 miles long? In the mid-1970s, while hearing a lawsuit between the two villages over early year water contract rates, a county judge took it upon himself to set a multi-year payment framework. That is said to be the contract framework that will expire in 2014. Another court-ordered solution may be needed.
Thurston, in the long run, deserves its own water system.