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Sewer, water rate increases coming next year

THORNVILLE – Mayor Gavin Renner said that as a village resident he “feels the pain” that residents will feel due to higher costs for water and sewer service.

He pledged that council members would carefully consider the changes. “Our solicitor is currently working on an ordinance that has yet to be brought before council,” so changes won’t happen until next year.

The ordinance takes away the 2,000 gallons of “free” water ($1.15) and sewer ($5) use rates. The $40 monthly charge per customer to repay the OWDA loan will be reduced to $38. However, that OWDA repayment fee and the $3 monthly storm sewer charge would now be charged to all households regardless of whether their water is turned on or not. “Please note that these are not finalized and may or may not reflect what, if anything, is actually passed,” said Renner.

The mayor predicted these changes won’t be pushed quickly through council because they need to be understood and discussed since they impact all village customers. Northern Perry County customers are not affected.

Proposed ordinances must be read at three separate meetings unless council members specifically waive the rule. A specific public haring on the rate increases is also planned.

Renner said the public hearing gives council members an opportunity to hear from residents on the proposed changes. “We will take steps to post meetings in a timely manner for this issue so residents are aware of when council will be deliberating the rates and be able to voice their concerns,” said Renner.

Thornville Administrator Beth Patrick said a public hearing would likely be held at the Thornville Elementary School at a date to be announced. “This is so everyone can have their voices heard,” she said. “Council’s doing a good job looking at the impact to the residents. We haven’t gotten to the first reading stage (of an ordinance) yet. We will have a public hearing and do the full three readings.”

Renner said RCAP was asked to do at a water/sewer rate analysis in 2011. Their report identified projected operational and replacement costs that must be addressed in the next few years. Plus Renner said a financial reserve would make the village more attractive from a loan/grant standpoint.

“The RCAP report didn’t take into account that we have a few more households on the system now,” said Renner. “Additionally, it didn’t take into account that the village has a 20 percent carryover policy for every fund that we operate. This carryover policy and under-spending on a yearly basis has resulted in a balance in both water and sewer accounts that’s only sufficient enough for emergencies and not enough for a significant replacement effort.”

Renner continued, “We’ve been working on appropriations legislation over the past month.” He said the legislation is currently going through readings and will have a public hearing at council’s Dec. 10 meeting. It has a few changes to reduce the amount of pressure on the water/sewer budgets. “One change is we’re moving the police salaries and benefits out of water and sewer to place them into the general fund and police levy funds. This is a $17,000 shift.”

Emergency repair amounts remain the same. “Generally emergency money doesn’t get used unless there is a problem,” said Renner. “We’ve been lucky and haven’t had any major issues.” The village is struggling with the ultraviolet treatment equipment at the sewer plant. Normally this is a $125,000 replacement cost. “However, our water, sewer operators have a plan to rebuild what we have. Hopefully, this will mean we only spend $20,000 to fix the problem and can still meet testing standards for bacteria,” he said.

Village streets also need repairs. Renner said Ohio 204 and Ohio 188 will likely be repaved in 2013 by the state. “We intend to plan a regular schedule of repairs moving forward. If residents can help us identify issues that would be great,” he said. “We’d also like to identify grants that the village can qualify for.”

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