By Amanda Amsel
Last month, residents frustrated with high water rates took their concerns to the Prairie Township trustees.
John Griffith, a resident and landlord in the township, said the cost of water services in the area are double what customers in the city of Columbus pay.
“I have tenants call me all the time and they are shocked by their bills,” said Griffith. “I look at the bills and I am shocked too.”
According to Prairie Township trustee Steve Kennedy, the county raised its water rates this year by 3 percent. The last increase was in 2012.
Stephen Renner, the director of sanitary engineering with Franklin County, admitted that county rates are higher than city rates. But, he said, there is a reason.
“We buy water from the city of Columbus too,” said Renner. “Then we sell it to residents.”
Renner said the city has more than 250,000 water accounts, or customers, whereas the county has less than 4,000.
“The city can spread that cost over more accounts,” said Renner.
Renner said the county does not profit from the water rates, but it has to cover its own costs and the cost of water, much like the cost of food, oil and other utilities, increase each year.
Renner said another reason township residents may see higher rates is due to an aging system. He said the water lines are older and it costs the county to maintain and upgrade the lines.
Tyler Lowry, who works in public affairs for the county commissioners, said, “Maintenance and improvements are necessary to continue providing good services and those costs must be paid for, either by passing them along to customers or by subsidizing the service with tax dollars from other Franklin County residents.”
According to Lowry, the average bill for both sewer and water services in the township is $333 per quarter. However, according to documentation provided by the Prairie Township trustees, a family of three who receives water and sewer services from the county pay more than $450 per quarter. The trustees said that same family would pay less than $250 for Columbus services.
In order for residents to tap into the city’s water, the township would have to annex into Columbus.
“We have to have water,” said Kennedy. “Historically, the only way Columbus will provide water to Prairie Township is if we annex the township, which brings with it a whole new set of issues.”
Griffith suggested the township create a task force to look at alternative solutions.
“These rates are ridiculous,” he said.
Renner said the township has been a good partner to the county and it would like to help where it can.
“We enjoy working with Prairie Township,” said Renner. “We would like to try to help mitigate the utility costs.”
Lowry said the county offers a low-income discount program.
“I would encourage people to check that out and see if they are eligible for discounts on their water,” said Lowry.
For information on the low-income discount program and for tips on water conservation, visit www.cleanwater.franklincountyohio.gov.
Westside Editor Andrea Cordle contributed to this article.