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Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Celina water users' wallets may feel drain

By William Kincaid
Celina residents will pay at least $6.81 more a month on their city utility bill to help finance the planned water treatment improvement project, if council members approve the ordinance.
During a special city council meeting Wednesday evening, council members went over the ordinance that would charge all water customers a monthly flat fee based on the meter size of each premise - not the actual amount of water used each month.
The legislation - which was initially slated to be voted on as an emergency ordinance Wednesday night - was changed to a first reading and is planned for another reading at the Aug. 13 council meeting. Councilman Chris Mohler recommended holding off on the emergency vote to allow residents time to review the ordinance, to which all other council members, except Collin Bryan, agreed. Bryan saw no point in waiting until the next meeting, as nothing in the ordinance would change, he said.
The monthly charge is based on the city borrowing up to $6.3 million from a Water Supply Revolving Loan Account to pay for the new granular activated carbon treatment process being added to the city's water system. The loan would run for 20 years, with a 3.25 percent interest rate.
The meter size mostly is based on the demand of water for that property and the lines going into the site, said Julie Vogel, city utilities customer account representative. However, she pointed out that some meters were put in years ago and may not accurately represent water usage today.
When asked by councilman June Scott how much money the debt assessment would bring in, Hazel said it would bring in around $427,434.
"It's a break-even," city Safety Service Director Jeff Hazel answered. "It's a net."
When further asked about the decision to charge a flat fee instead of one based on water usage, Hazel said customers could possibly use less water if charged by usage - an action that could jeopardize the city's ability to pay back the loan.
"It has to be based on something," he said.
Councilman Chris Mohler voiced concern about the possibility of people moving out of the area, which would reduce the amount of money coming in each year.
"Quite honestly that's always a risk," Hazel replied, before pointing out that council members can always create new legislation to restructure the means of collecting necessary loan money.
Hazel said those who shut their utilities off in the winter for whatever reason will still be required to pay the monthly charge. Everyone who benefits from the water improvements must contribute to the debt retirement assessment, he said.
Hazel also said in the case of pending foreclosures, the city could assess additional taxes to residents not paying the monthly bill. Once the house becomes property of the bank, however, the bank would be responsible for paying the monthly cost.
Before the end of the discussion, Scott said council members must properly market the pending legislation to the public.
"This is what it's going to cost you to have clean water," he said.
Councilman Angie King said much of the public already spends a significant amount of money on bottled water and water filters.
"We need to make the public aware of that," she said.
The city plans to build a granular activated carbon treatment facility that would be added to the city's existing treatment process. The carbon-based filtration is expected to lower the levels of trihalomethanes in the water to within acceptable limits of the EPA.
Council also is in the process of reviewing the low bid for the project, $6,035,000, from Peterson Construction, Wapakoneta.

Proposed rates:
City residents
• $6.81 - residential properties with 5/8- and 3/4-inch meters
• $8.67 - 1-inch meter
• $11.14 - 11/2-inch meter
• $17.95 - 2-inch meter
• $68.09- 3-inch meter
Users who live outside the city (Jefferson Township, northeast of city)        
• $7.49 - residential with 5/8- and 3/4-inch meters
• $9.53 -1-inch meter
• $19.75 - 2-inch meter
• $74.90 - 3-inch meter
Owners of trailer courts and parks (one master meter)
• $8.67 - 1-inch meter
• $17.95 - 2-inch meter
• $19.75 - 2-inch meter, located outside city
- William Kincaid
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