They say Belmont County’s water is safe.
But the water and sewer systems are falling apart.
“It’s the fact that somebody will wake up and turn the faucet on and there’s no water there,” said Michael Burgess of Prime AE. “Or they’ll flush the commode and it’ll go down the sewer line and end up in a stream somewhere versus getting to the treatment plant.”
One sewage plant has so many violations the Ohio EPA has ordered them to replace it.
A new water and sewer system will cost $43.7 million.
After much research, they say their best bet is to finance it through the USDA.
They have low interest rates and a 40-year term for the loan.
But the offer won’t last long.
“Without a doubt, if they lose this window for funding, we’ll see user rates that are substantially higher than this.” said Michael Burgess. “They don’t have a choice on the wastewater plant. It’s got to be done, by administrative order. On the water plant, it’s a matter of whether you want water every time you turn your faucet on.”
They said it would substantially increase the average household’s bill.
But not everyone’s bill would go up.
“So if you have a senior citizen out there, a widow living alone, and she uses the minimum water usage per month, her rates may actually go down,” noted Commission President Mark Thomas.
They say this problem has been coming on for decades.
“We don’t hesitate in paying for our cell phone bills or our TVs and things of that nature that aren’t necessary for life,” said Commissioner Josh Meyer. “Whereas water is vital. To get sewage out is vital.”
The vote is set for June 7.
Until then, commissioners say they’ll talk about it.
“We are here every day to talk with whoever needs a better explanation,” said Mark Thomas. “We will meet one-on-one with residents who don’t understand or who have questions.”
But they are not likely to change their collective mind.
“It’s either that we pay these rates or we have no system at all,” said Thomas. “And we simply can’t go there. People have to have water.”