Groveport water plant funding debate continues

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By Rick Palsgrove

Southeast Editor

Groveport City Councilman Ed Rarey has re-introduced legislation to fund the construction of a new water plant.

“If we build our own water plant, the city will be better able to ensure water quality, maintain water service and repairs and control rates,” said Rarey.

He also said a Groveport water plant would continue to tap into the natural aquifer located beneath the city.

In February, Groveport City Council fell one vote short of approving financing for the city’s new water plant. The vote was 3-2 to approve an ordinance to use $2.18 million in 20-year bonds or bond anticipation notes to finance construction of the city’s new water plant. However, according to the city charter, four votes are needed to pass legislation, so the ordinance failed.

Voting for financing the water plant were council members Rarey, Shawn Cleary and Becky Hutson. Opposing it were Jean Ann Hilbert and Ed Dildine, who believe Groveport should connect to Columbus for water service. Councilwoman Donna Drury, who previously voted to build the water plant, has been absent from several council meetings due to illness.

Groveport Law Director Kevin Shannon said for the original water plant financing ordinance to be reconsidered, one of the two council members who opposed it would have to bring it forward again. If not, council could consider proposing new legislation and begin the three reading legislative process again.

So Rarey re-introduced the legislation.

“Years ago, the people of Groveport voted on a referendum and said they wanted Groveport water,” said Rarey. “They voted not to go to Columbus for water service.”

That referendum vote was in 1998 where, by a 679 to 559 vote (55 percent to 45 percent), voters rejected connecting to Columbus for water service and opted for Groveport water.

Hilbert previously stated she opposes the new water plant because the increased water rates to fund it place a burden on the approximately 1,200 customers on the Groveport city water system. (There are about 1,500 customers in Groveport who are on the Columbus water system, according to Groveport officials.)

Hilbert also stated the decision on whether or not to build a water plant should be made by another vote of the citizens of Groveport.

Dildine believes connecting to Columbus for water service “is the most financially responsible, economically feasible, and long term viability solution for our city.”

Hutson said Groveport, by building its own water plant, would control its own natural resources, water system and rates instead of turning control over to an outside government.

The water plant financing ordinance will have its second reading at council on March 24 and is scheduled to be voted on at council’s April 14 meeting.

City administrative officials have been working on plans for the new water plant since June 2012.

Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall said the city cannot enter into a construction contract for the water plant without funding. She said the pre-bid meeting and bid opening for the construction of the water plant have been postponed pending council’s decision on the re-introduced water plant financing ordinance.

She also noted the city has already spent about $200,000 in engineering costs for the proposed water plant.

Hall said plans had been to begin construction of the water plant in April with the plant expected to be operational by early 2015. She said the water plant would be built between the water tower and the storage barn along South Hamilton Road near the existing water plant.

Hall said the Ohio EPA will require that the city do something about its water situation soon – either build a new water plant or connect to Columbus for water service.

Currently, water rate increases are scheduled for those on the Groveport water system as follows: 20 percent for the first 2014 billing; 20 percent in 2015; 12 percent in 2016; and 3 percent in 2017.

Hall said if Groveport does not build a water plant and connects with Columbus there would still be water rate increases of an undetermined amount. She said city officials would have to explore the water rate increases the city would have with Columbus, as well as review the connection costs, including pressure release valves. She said Groveport would also have to consider the costs involved in whether to enter a master meter or a full service agreement with Columbus.

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