By Amanda Ensinger
At a recent meeting, the Prairie Township trustees discussed the possibility of reducing water rates for residents.
According to township officials, a study is being conducted to see what the cost would be for Columbus to take over Franklin County sewer and water services.
“The city, county and township are looking at doing a study to see what the various options are cost-wise for water and sewer in the area and how it will be managed,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “The city and county are in talks to potentially take over the county’s system.”
However, according to Hatmaker, no decision on this will be made until the study is complete. The study is looking at the overall Franklin County sewer and water system, the improvements that need to be made and the amount of people who currently use the system.
“They also will look at what our rates should be to make it most economical for them given the number of households we have in the township,” Hatmaker said.
Township residents receive their water and sewer service through Franklin County and have complained about their bills being double what neighboring communities pay.
“The water bills in Prairie Township are more than double what they are for the same home with the same water usage in Columbus,” said John Griffith, a landlord in Prairie Township.
“People live on fixed incomes in this community and a $400 or $500 water bill is devastating for them.”
In the spring, Franklin County had a public meeting where officials explained to residents why their water was so high and what they are planning to do about it.
Franklin County Sanitary Engineer’s Director Stephen Renner said the reason for the increases is due to the aging water and sewer system, how spread out the service areas are and the fleet of service trucks that have to service these areas on any given day.
Officials added that the county has only increased the water bills slightly the past few years to try to reduce customer expenses. However, in reality they should have been increasing the water rates by a lot more to maintain the aging system that is in need of repairs.
“In order for us to pay for the infrastructure needs over the next decade, we would need to increase the rates by 15 to 20 percent every year,” said Erik Janas, deputy county administrator for Franklin County. “We have held rates over the last three years and have kept increases consistent with Columbus, which is 2 to 3 percent. This has resulted in us falling further behind.”
Janas added that the commissioners have agreed to fund $2.5 million a year over four to five years, which equals to approximately $15 million for continued maintenance of the system.
The township is part of a committee that is looking at bringing Columbus water to Prairie Township. The attorney for the township is participating in these meetings on the township’s behalf.
“We are moving along, but it is going to be a lengthy process,” said Stephen Kennedy, township trustee. “We hope to have something finalized in a two-year time frame, but right now there are no hookups yet.”