Water rates discussed in Prairie Township

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By Amanda Ensinger
Staff Writer

Residents in a local township are once again asking when they are going to get some relief on their water bills after seeing no progress for years. At a recent Prairie Township board meeting, residents asked for an update on a water connection with the city of Columbus.

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 Engineers 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.

However, the increase caused concern for Prairie Township residents who say they already 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, in an effort to reduce water costs.

However, township residents have not received an update in more than six months and are frustrated.

“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 to $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. If they had water from Columbus, this fee would be around $30. Neighboring communities who get their water from Columbus pay about half of what township residents pay.

Renner said earlier this year that the county operates an aging system and that contributes to the more expensive rates.

“Rates are high because the county system is outdated, mismanaged, and with a relatively small customer base to pay for necessary costs,” Schmelzer said. “The county has offered these same explanations week after week, month after month and year after year.”

Renner said the county is looking at having Columbus take over the services to reduce residents’ rates but says the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the process down.

The trustees argued earlier this year that this has been an issue for 10 years and blaming the delay on the pandemic will not cut it.

Trustee Steven Kennedy encouraged residents with high water bills to send them to the Franklin County Commissioners and said that the township will continue to work on this issue.

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