Hanoverton sticker shock

HANOVERTON – Village officials have rejected a state suggestion that a monthly fee be assessed against residents immediately to raise money for construction of a proposed sewage treatment plant that may never happen.

Mayor Dan Kibler said he was taken aback at the suggestion made by an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency official when he spoke with the OEPA about the project and the village’s lack of funding. The official recommended residents be charged $30 to $40 per month as a way for the village to start accumulating money for the project.

Kibler compared the idea of assessing a fee before the plant is even built and in operation to buying a car “and telling me I’ll gladly give you the car in five years if you begin paying for it now.”

“I don’t see how we could do that, and we just let it go at that,” he said. “We didn’t think that it was fair to begin charging them for something we might never be able to afford to build.”

The village of 367 residents is under an OEPA mandate to build a treatment plant because of problems with malfunctioning septic systems in the village. Columbiana County commissioners and Hanoverton were originally going to build a joint plant to serve the village as well as the nearby unincorporated area of Kensington, which is also under a state mandate, but commissioners opted out of the project in 2011 because Hanoverton’s inability to secure funding was driving up local costs.

The Hanoverton plant is currently expected to cost $4.8 million, and the village’s goal has been to get enough federal and state grants and interest-free loans to lower its out-of-pocket share of the project to $1 million. This would reduce the monthly household user fee to $63, which is still $16 higher than the statewide average preferred by the OEPA. This would be in addition to a tap-in fee of about $5,000 per household.

Kibler said the state had made it clear there is no grant money or interest-free loans available for the village. He said they owe $7,000 in fees to the law firm retained to represent Hanoverton in its dealings with the OEPA and have to “rob Peter to pay Paul” to come up with the $500 per month to pay the law firm.

The village recently learned the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program would loan it $35,000 to begin design work on the plant, but Kibler said they do not have the money to pay $12,500 owed the engineering firm for preliminary design work.

A possible solution may be hooking into the county’s Kensington plant, and Kibler said he has spoken with county Engineer Bert Dawson about doing just that, and he was open to the suggestion.

Dawson said the Kensington plant would be built so it could be expanded to take in Hanoverton. The estimated cost of the Kensington plant is now $1.89 million, with the county obtaining grants and loans covering all but $245,000, and funding is being sought to cover that.

Dawson said Hanoverton could contract with the county to not only hook into the Kensington plant but maintain the village’s sewage system, although Hanoverton would retain ownership and responsibility for setting its own rates.