By SEAN RICE
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
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.