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03-01-06 Mercer County to poll users on wishes for water

By Tim Cox

  Mercer County officials plan to poll nearly 300 households in eastern Jefferson Township about how they want the county to deal with long-standing water issues.

  County commissioners are pushing Celina city officials to decide if they want to partner with the county on creating a central water system. Commissioners now want to poll township residents to decide exactly how to proceed with the issue.

  "We're going to ask what they feel about the water situation," Commissioner Bob Nuding said. "We want to know if and how they would like us to address it."

  The East Jefferson Water District includes rural township residents who live outside the city of Celina. It includes the Harbor Point, Highland Park and Lake Acres neighborhoods as well as homes scattered throughout rural areas of the township.

  County officials have said they need to replace aging water mains in eastern Jefferson Township and need to build a new water tower. The county buys water from the city of Celina, a sore point for some residents because the water does not meet EPA regulations and because residents have no direct representation from elected city officials.  "We want to do this as soon as possible because we've waited long enough," Nuding said, adding that surveys will start showing up in mailboxes in the near future.

  County officials have said they believe they can replace the necessary infrastructure and build a new water treatment plant while passing on only minimal cost increases to customers.

  If county officials were to create their own water system, Celina officials have said it would negatively affect the water department's funding. Nearly 300,000 gallons of daily water use would be lost. Furthermore, treatment costs and the expense of future improvements to the aging water plant, would be divided over a smaller customer base, which means high water rates for city customers.

  City officials have held up a decision on whether to partner with the county until some testing on a new treatment technology is completed. The carbon filtration is expected to bring the city's water into compliance with EPA regulations but city officials still are facing millions of dollars in necessary improvements and renovations to the aging water plant in the next few years.

  After the pilot testing is completed, city officials are expected to decide what course they will follow for the long-term to fix the city's water issues.


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