Groveport Village Council has instructed Village Administrator Jon Crusey and Engineer Steve Farst to hold talks with the city of Columbus about the possibility of the entire village connecting to the Columbus water system.
Speaking at council’s Jan. 22 committee of the whole meeting, Crusey said the talks with Columbus would enable the village to get the "full details of what would be required of the village if it connected to Columbus (for water service)."
He said the meeting would provide council with information about potential costs involved regarding tap fees, water meter changes (Groveport meters gauge use by 1,000 gallons while Columbus water meters measure by hundreds of cubic feet used), and other hook up costs.
The village would also have to explore issues regarding which government entity would replace and maintain the existing water lines as well as how differences in water pressure between the Groveport and Columbus systems would be handled.
A water rate study completed by EMH&T, which updates a previous 2005 study, indicates that "the comparison of the projected water rate for village customers to that of the Columbus customers is only favorable with the expansion of the service area for the (village) water system."
EMH&T projects water rate increases for those on the Groveport water system of 23 percent, 23 percent, 23.5 percent, 23.5 percent, and 3 percent over the next five years, assuming little or no growth of customers on the village’s system, in order to satisfy debt service requirements and operational costs.
The EMH&T study plotted out future village water rates based on two scenarios – one with no future expansion of the Groveport water service area and one assuming a 3.7 percent increase in the village service area. The study found:
•With a 3.7 percent Groveport water system growth rate, the village water rates would increase up to a rate of $6.04 per 1,000 gallons (resulting in a quarterly bill of $144.96 for 8,000 gallons used) by 2013. This would be less than the projected quarterly bill of $159.74 by 2013, assuming use of 8,000 gallons, for village residents on Columbus water.
•Without expansion of the Groveport water service area, the village water rate would rise to $9.98 per 1,000 gallons (resulting in a quarterly bill of $248.16 for 8,000 gallons used) by 2013. This figure is higher than the projected quarterly bill of $159.74 by 2013, assuming use of 8,000 gallons, for village residents on Columbus water.
The rate increases would be needed to fund capital water improvements, such as a new water tower, new water lines, and an upgrade or replacement of the existing Groveport water plant. The plant was built in 1936 and has been refurbished several times over the years. According to village officials, the village water plant would have to be upgraded again or replaced by 2012 after it reaches its capacity.
According to the EMH&T study, within Groveport’s existing water service area there are only 26 platted lots still to be developed and they will be built out by 2008, not enough to sustain a 3.7 percent growth for the water system.
The study outlined other areas where Groveport could expand its water system to achieve the growth it would need to keep the rates from rising too swiftly. These areas include land north of Corbett/Ebright roads to Elmont Place; southeast to Little Walnut Creek; east to Rager Road; and northeast along Sims Road.
In December, Crusey said the national housing crunch is being reflected in the slow residential development in Groveport. He said without more water customers, "a smaller number of people will have to support the costs."
"Even if the markets turn around we won’t see growth for several years," added Crusey.
According to Finance Director Ken Salak, the Groveport water system has 1,155 customers. This includes 1,085 residences, 59 businesses, and 11 governmental buildings. The Columbus water system within the village limits has 829 customers, including 765 residences and 64 businesses.
Councilman Ed Rarey, who opposes hooking up with Columbus for water services, said, "We can play the rate game forever…but I’m concerned we would sell off our water rights for a few shekels. I’d rather control our own destiny."
Rarey said the village should look to the east to Rager Road and southeast along Richardson Road for possible future expansion of the village’s water system in order to generate more revenue for the water fund. He also expressed concerns that the Columbus water that would be pumped to the village would come from the Parsons Avenue water plant, which he said he believes uses treated water from the Scioto River.
"I’m uneasy about water quality (from Columbus)," said Rarey.
Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert had a different view.
"I don’t think we can ask our residents to pay that much money for water," said Hilbert.
Councilwoman Donna Drury said it would be important for the village to fully inform the residents about a potential decision to tap into the Columbus water system, either by letter or through public meetings.