By Amanda Ensinger
The Franklin Township trustees are at odds with Franklin County officials about sewer tapping fees.
At a recent board meeting, representatives from the Franklin County Commissioners and the county sanitary engineer’s office met with the trustees to discuss tapping fees that township residents will have to pay.
Franklin Township trustee John Fleshman accused the commissioners and the sanitary engineers of charging residents tapping fees when they received federal grants that cover these expenses.
“Is this double dipping when you have federal grants helping pay for this project?” Fleshman asked. “I have put in numerous public information requests to see all records for this project and still have not gotten what I have requested. So, I am asking the board to file suit in order to get the records requested so we can see if this is double dipping.”
Approximately 600 residents throughout Franklin Township will have to pay approximately $3,800 to tap into the new sanitary sewer lines. Currently, the residents are using faulty sanitary sewer lines that are leaking and tainting water wells.
According to county officials, no such funds Fleshman noted exist and the county has provided the township with all the materials requested.
“We have been completely responsive with you and at this point you have every piece of paper related to this project,” said Stephen Renner, director of the Franklin County Sanitary Engineer’s Office. “We have even offered to review all of these documents with you. There are no grants involved in this project.”
Franklin Township trustee Don Cook said the issue is when the county fulfilled the records request, no interpretation of the documents were given, confusing the board on the funding of this project.
“The problem is these records need interpretation and you are not required to do that when you fulfill a public records request,” Cook said. “This seems like a failure to communicate.”
However, Renner echoed his previous statement that they have offered numerous times to explain the documentation.
“If you want to sit down and have a conversation about these documents the offer still stands,” Renner said.
Fleshman questioned why township residents must pay a tap fee at all.
Franklin County Attorney Harold Anderson explained that whenever anyone taps into the county lines, they are charged a fee.
“If you tap into the Franklin County system, you are charged a tap fee; across the board everyone is charged to tap into the system,” he said. “You are not just paying for a pipe to the street. You are paying for the treatment of the water that turns the water from sewage into drinking water.”
The township’s attorney, Don Bronsius echoed this sentiment.
“As far back as 1980, if my memory serves me correct, they have always charged a tap fee,” Bronsius said.
For residents who may struggle to pay the fee, help does exist.
“If you qualify, the fee can be put on as a tax duplicate on your parcel and it then reduces by 10 percent every year for 10 years,” Renner said. “If you sell your home before that 10 years, you would just need to pay the remaining balance before you sell.”
According to Renner, further details on this option will be available in the coming months.
“Once we figure out more details about this project, we will hold another public meeting,” Renner said. “However, right now this may not happen for another 18 months or so as this is a big project with 600 connections.”
The trustees agreed to meet with county officials to review the provided documents before moving forward with any action.