By Amanda Ensinger
Prairie Township recently held a public hearing to discuss the annual sidewalk program. The program, which replaces dangerous sidewalks in the township, has been taking place for more than 15 years.
At the meeting, the board of trustees approved a resolution to levy special assessments for the repair of sidewalks in Prairie Township. This year, 11 households participated in the program and the total assessment was $24,647, with one participant paying in full.
The program offers township property owners a 10-year interest free loan to repair their sidewalks. The loans are added to the property taxes of residents and paid off over a decade. However, if a resident moves, then they must pay the remaining balance before the sale of their home can be completed.
Previously the program was voluntary, but in recent years the township added a component to the program where they make residents replace sidewalks that are dangerous. Also, residents can report sidewalks that need to be repaired.
A few other revisions to the program in recent years include that there is a minimum cost of $450 to repair any sidewalk and residents need to replace more than one slab of a sidewalk.
However, last year the program was made all voluntary as a result of the financial situation many Americans are facing. This year, the program continues to be voluntary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t want to make someone’s financial situation harder,” Peters said. “Unless their sidewalk was very dangerous and really needed replaced, we made it voluntary.”
In other news, residents asked for an update on Columbus taking over water service in the township.
“We have no control over when the county and city take over those services,” said Prairie Township trustee Stephen Kennedy. “We all want that for the residents and we are always trying to keep this moving along. It’s a slow process and then there are additional legal things to consider.”
At the beginning of 2021, residents saw a 2 percent increase for water service and a 3 percent increase for sewer service, according to Franklin County Department of Sanitary Engineer’s Director Stephen Renner. The reason for these increases was attributed to increases the county received from Columbus. According to Renner, they are simply passing these increases along to their customers.
The increase caused concern for Prairie Township residents who already say they pay some of the highest rates in the county.
At the time of these increases, the township and county were looking at a way to have Columbus take over the county’s water system, hopefully reducing water costs.
“I check monthly with Steve Renner and have not gotten any updates,” said Prairie Township trustee Cathy Schmelzer.
According to township leadership, a family of four pays anywhere between $500-$800 a quarter for water and sewer service. They also said that if someone uses no water, they will still pay $110 in connection fees. Neighboring communities that receive their water from Columbus pay about half of what township residents pay.