Some residents of Pleasant Township may get some federal help to fund a sewer and water project.
On July 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy and water appropriations bill by a vote of 312-112. In that measure, there is $400,000 set aside to assist the residents of the Timberlake subdivision.
"I was eager to help these people, who through no fault of their own, were being stuck with an enormous bill from the county for their sewer and water services," said Congresswoman Deborah Pryce. "This funding should significantly help offset the costs to homeowners in the area."
According to Pryce, without the federal assistance, the homeowners in the subdivision could pay as much as $10,000 per household to Franklin County for their assessment. There are 193 homes in that area.
The original sewer and water provider for the area abandoned its services due to financial problems. According to Franklin County Sanitary Engineer Tom Shockley, another privately owned company stepped in and bought the sewer processing plant. Shockley explained that the company applied for a rate increase and was turned down by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. When the rate increase was rejected, the company threatened to leave and did not do the necessary upgrades and repairs.
"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) deemed the company non-compliant," explained Shockley. "The Franklin County Commissioners recognized the dire straights and agreed to build a new water treatment plant in Darbydale."
The county will build a pumping station that will pump up Lambert Road to the facility on London-Groveport Road. They will also build a new water treatment plant that involves drilling new wells that will provide Timberlake residents with cleaner water and better water pressure.
According to Pryce, Franklin County required residents to pay for the cost of upgrading the facility either by lump sum or through a significant increase in their property taxes.
"While the appropriations process is a long one and there are no guarantees, this is a promising first step toward making the residents of Timberlake whole again," said Pryce.
Shockley explained that the EPA is holding the private company responsible and have ordered them to operate while the county completes the construction.
"We are hoping the residents of Timberlake will only have to go through one more winter then they will be on line with the new water system in 2008," said Shockley. "We are still trying to get grants and low-interest loans to help pay for the construction costs."
Franklin County will proceed with the project, with or without federal funding.
"If we don’t get money, we have to keep going. We’re not going to stop," said Shockley.
Pleasant Township Chairman Keith Goldhardt said this has been an issue in the area for about three years. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill last year that died in the U.S. Senate.
"I am hoping it will get through this year," Goldhardt commented. "Those residents need all the help they can get."
Rob Nichols, press secretary for Pryce said the Congresswoman fought for $750,000 in the 2007 energy and water appropriation bill but it was dumped mostly due to the flip flop of majority members.
"A lot of the line items were dropped," said Nichols. "It was more of a timing issue than an issue of support. We are hopeful to make it a go this year."
Goldhardt added, "Federal help would be wonderful at this point and $400,000 would give them a good start and it is not too much considering how much money the federal government has."
The EPA stepped in in part because Timerlake is located in the environmentally sensitive Hellbranch watershed, which feeds into the Big Darby. The deteriorating state of the sewer and water plant has been identified as a significant environmental threat to the Darby.
The energy and water appropriation bill must be approved by the Senate and signed by George W. Bush before its finalization. No word yet on when the Senate will vote on the measure but it will be before the end of the year.