Cardington council freezes sewer rates after community protests proposed increase
By Evelyn Long -
More than 100 persons packed the room when Cardington Village Council met on Tuesday, January 22. The focus of almost everyone present was the vote on the scheduled raise in water rates and sewer rates that would become effective with the February 1 billing.
Mayor Susie Peyton, serving as both mayor and sometimes moderator, gave each speaker a five minute limit to vocalize their opinion.
Almost 90 minutes later, after listening to the comments and offering their own comments, council voted to freeze the sewer base rate for one year and to decrease the water base rate by three per cent for one year. The vote on the first measure was unanimous. The vote on the second measure was five yeas and one nay, that being cast by Councilman Tim Abraham.
Council also voted unanimously to create a 50 percent water base rate for the inactive accounts and a connection fee for vacant lots with respect to village water service.
All of these measures are effective January 1 and will be reflected in the February, 2013 billing.
Among the local residents offering their comments was Chris Moller, a plumber, who works with water all over the area and said “we pay way, way too much — for the quality of water we get.”
Evelyn Trainer, West Main Street, said “it is sad when I hear of people who can’t afford to pay their bill and can’t take showers because they don’t have water in the house. It’s ridiculous that people have to move out because of the water bill.”
She inquired about the fine levied with Cardington Yutaka and asked where that money was going. Danny Wood, village administrator explained that money which has not been received yet, is mandated by the federal court to be applied to the wastewater plant upgrade. “We have to show receipts to show where it is spent,” he said.
Stephanie Hamm, a teacher in another school district, said she applauds the opinion of Cardington-Lincoln Supt. Brian Petrie (whose letter was read earlier by Pam Frysinger) and compared people’s choice down the road of supporting the school or paying a water bill — “water or children — that’s pretty sad that we have to choose.”
Rick Sedlacek, Gilead Street, a teacher at Olentangy for 21 years, questioned the quality of water and said it is not acceptable to at least 75 of us here. “If I’m going to pay for a Cadillac, I want a Cadillac,” he said. “As Brian Petrie said, the price is outrageous according to the state. I feel I’m paying for a Cadillac and I’m not getting anything near that. Why is the quality so bad and the price is so high and why does it have to go higher?”
Bo Christian, East Main Street, noted “We have a community problem — it’s not something the group or one person has caused — its your of regulations, etc. Yesterday doesn’t fix the problem– it takes a community.”
In response to a question about the source of Cardington water, Danny Wood, village administrator, said the water comes from wells from Marion County and picks up minerals along the way — “we pre treat the water with chlorine — then it goes through aeration when it comes to the plant we aerate most of the sulfates out — it has high calcium — we soften it with ionic softeners — takes a lot of salt so we add a small amount of phosphate — crustiness around the fixtures — phosphate is to bring that down — it costs us more money at the wastewater plant to remove the phosphate — because we have a one millimeter allowance that we have to stay under on what water we put back in the river. We chlorinate the water on the way out — we monitor it every day– the only way we could improve it is something you don’t want to hear and that is to upgrade the water plant. We maintain the EPA standards of 150 hardness.” He responded that he is pleased with the quality of water when asked his opinion.
“We’re far ahead of other communities as far as replacing infrastructure.”
Mayor Peyton explained in 2010, “we had RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Plan) do a study — previously the general fund had been subsidizing water and sewer — the EPA says utilities must be self supporting — the company said the rates must be raised by three per cent every year that includes cost of living and cost of running the water and sewer plants.” Randy Fox, councilman said “The end of the study said base rates should cover operating and maintenance costs of the water system — they suggested the rate increases — when we enacted the ordinance it said three percent from now on but we need to look at it to see if it should be adjusted. The idea is that is should be self supporting.”
In response to a question about the 48 percent base rate, Wood said that was to get the base rate up — covering what we were behind – paying for pipe line that is in the ground.
David Brown inquired about the water line that runs across his property on State Route 529. Wood said that is a transmission line and we are still paying on loans for that line.
Bill Christian, Riverview Drive, former mayor and a former councilman, said, “We have approximately 700 customers here — this system has to be sold — I don’t know whether you have talked to Delco or Aqua American — it doesn’t matter what you do today, we’re going to have to get rid of this system. We’re going to have to sell it for what they pay us. This system has to sell — you cannot maintain this system with 700 customers. As utility bills go up, chemical bills go up; you’re going to be right back in this spot — three per cent? That means a $500 water bill. It’s the debt retirement that is killing us. You have probably generated $438,000 the last four years– you need to have a study on what this system is worth — not what you owe. We’re in a hole — we would have to eat the rest after getting our selling price. What I’ve seen you could drop three per cent right now — you have 70 percent new water lines in this town. You need blue prints– Delco wants blue prints– It’s your job to have to do it. You’re going to have to do a study and then go to Delco and see what they will give you. From what I’ve seen, there’s no way you can keep this system — you can’t increase your customer base. Delco is right at your back door.”
Nick Cochran asked, “Can this debt be paid off early?”
Jim Dietz, village solicitor, said the interest rates are fixed and there is no prepayment. “We have various loans on both systems.”
Among others speaking were Crystal Spires, Julie Cole, Wade DeLawder, Bob Merman, Ardena Christian, Tammy Brown, Mel Robinson,Ron Choina, Gene Evans, Janet Sedlacek, and Heather Deskins.
Questions were asked about the sale of the water system — and Councilman Richard Garner said Delco wants nothing to do with our system.
“We have pipes from 1936 yet on Center Street, he said noting that the company does not want to take on that kind of responsibility,” Garner said.
Mayor Peyton thanked council members for their work on this issue. She extended special kudos to Wood for “looking for ways to save money.”
“This council has done the very best job with the job they were given,” she said. “We have even talked about our street guys putting in the lines to save money.”
Councilman Richard Caldwell noted that council had met over a period of 18 months to work on the water/sewer issue and took the matter very seriously. “We continue to monitor the figures — the numbers indicate we are generating more income than we anticipated.”
“We put the water and sewer on a very, very strict budget and that carryover includes what they saved– it was phenomenal — if we can put them on a stricter level, it will have a play in it,” said Councilwoman Vickie Wise.
John Gersper, Fiscal Officer, distributed copies of the water and wastewater fund balances. The fund balance for the water department as of January 1, 2013 is 968,786.18 with a carryover of $263,656.98. The fund balance for the wastewater department as of January 1, 2013 of $179.697.80 with a carry over of $53,978.94.
Gersper noted that without the increase last year there would not have been enough to cover the sewer costs.
Reporter Mike Bowersock and a camera crew covered the issue for NBC4 of Columbus.
New Police Chief sworn in
In other matters, Mayor Peyton gave the oath of office to John Hinton as the village’s new police chief. He has been a deputy with the Morrow County Sheriff’s office and is a varsity wrestling coach at Cardington High School.
Giving the fire department report for the last time was retiring Fire Chief Jim Ullom.
He noted that Richland Township had turned down the department’s offer of fire coverage this year. All of those present gave Ullom a standing ovation in appreciation of his years of dedication to the department. They also welcomed the new chief Gary Goodman with a round of applause.
Giving the police department report was Lt. James Wallace who said the department had taken 58 calls in January, up from last year by 15 calls. The 2010 cruiser is in a garage for repair work that includes a bad ball joint, defective tie rods and rear brakes. He also said that a representative from DRMO had called in reference to the Hummer. Because the village does not want it, DRMO will publish a photo on their web site listing it for sale. They will also publish other inventory associated with it listing it for sale.
Bills approved for payment totaled $81,221.56.
Council also approved an ordinance amending and fixing compensation for certain village employees effective immediately and also an ordinance authorizing the Administrator and Fiscal Officer to enter into an agreement with UAN for new financial software. Voting no on this measure was Councilman Tim Abraham.
Village Administrator Wood said that the street crew had torn down the old grid building at the wastewater plant.
Scott Hines, village engineer, said that the ODNR Grant for Maxwell Park had been approved in the amount of $60,000. Also received was $3,000 from Consolidated Electric and a $15,000 donation. Jean Smith, local resident, who is active with the Maxwell Park, invited people to join her in the development. Bob Merman described the park as being an ideal place for school kids to learn about nature.
Council adjourned its regular meeting at 9:25 pm and entered executive session at 9:45 pm based on ORC 121.22(G) (1) and ORC 121.22(G)(3). Executive session concluded at 10:55 pm with no further action taken.
Council will meet next on February 4 at 7 pm.