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01-09-04: Water rate may rise


Celina City Council will ask residents to foot the bill for drinking water system upgrades, when council considers an ordinance raising water rates 20 percent at its Monday night meeting.
Celina Safety Service Director Mike Sovinski announced the ordinance was in preparation during a budget meeting Thursday night dedicated to the water fund.
The city council finance committee finished its first round of budget meetings Thursday, having looked line-by-line at the electric, wastewater and general funds in previous meetings. Rather than finalizing each fund’s total, the committee filled-in all required operational expenses and removed all capital projects and special purchases.
After fund reports are compiled and distributed Monday by city Auditor Pat Smith, the council can finish the city budget by adding those larger expenses agreed upon for 2004, Sovinski said.
Large expenses in the water department are not optional, as Celina is under orders from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make major changes to the water treatment plant. The EPA fined the city $10,000 and issued the orders as a result of Celina’s repeated violations of the rules for trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water.
THMs are believed to cause cancer in the stomach and other gastric organs after a lifetime of exposure. Celina is cited for violating the legal limits on numerous occasions in the past 10 years. THM levels in Celina’s water are still above state limits and city residents continue to be notified of the problem in a notice with utility bills.
Already $150,000 has been spent in 2003 investigating two solutions: a well field for a new water plant and retrofitting the existing plant. In 2004, the council will have to solidify which direction the city’s water future is headed.
Water Superintendent Mike Sudman prepared a document for the committee that breaks-out approximate expenses in 2004 related to the EPA orders. To continue well exploration and other engineering associated with that option, the city could spend about $251,000 extra in 2004 from the water fund. If the city continues to investigate retrofitting the existing plant with new technologies, the bill could reach $390,000.
Sudman and Sovinski said a new water plant is looking more feasible than dumping millions of dollars into the existing plant. The most promising alternative to a new plant involves combining two treatment technologies, Actoflo and MIEX. Sudman said jar testing shows the two treatments improve the water coming from the current plant, but the results are not overwhelming.
During discussion Thursday, Smith said the water fund is expected to take in $1.8 million in revenue next year. The bare-bones water budget, including the $300,000 generated from a 20 percent increase, still totaled $1.9 million Thursday. The committee told the administration to cut the budget more and fine tune revenue projections before decisions are made.
Money generated by the rate increase would be used to fund the change-over in water treatment, Sovinski said. The estimated $251,000 to further investigate the well option would be a one-time cost for 2004, but the rate increase will stay. If the city takes out a large loan to build a new plant, the excess from the rate increase could possibly handle payments of $5 million on that loan, Sovinski said after the meeting.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2004
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822


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