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Water service growth gauged

WARREN — About 3,000 property owners in Bazetta, Champion, Bristol and Mecca can expect to receive a survey this week gauging their interest in obtaining county water.

The Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office sent out the surveys this week outlining how an expansion of waterlines in the selected area would work. A total of 3,412 properties are on the potential path of the expansion, and 2,665 of the properties have habitable structures on them, according to the survey letter.

The project could extend existing lines in Bazetta and Champion, bringing water to to properties further north on Hoagland Blackstub Road, state Route 45 and North Park Avenue Extension, on state Route 88 between Mecca and Bristol, state Route 305, Durst Clagg Road, Everett Hull Road, Housel Craft Road, Shaffer Hyde Road, Portage Easterly Road, and others.

Trumbull County is attempting a new methodology to extend public water service without front foot assessments, said Gary Newbrough, deputy sanitary engineer.

“This survey will give us the necessary information to determine where it may be feasible to extend public water service,” Newbrough stated in an email to officials in the affected townships.

Traditionally, public water service has been extended in Trumbull County through petitions and front foot assessments, Newbrough said. The new method has the potential to bring water to neighborhoods even if the majority of property owners don’t want to opt in.

Traditionally, a group of property owners would submit petitions for public water service to the board of commissioners. If the petitions have signatures from 75 percent of the property owners, based on frontage, the sanitary engineers’ office would move forward with a project.

After design engineering, a public hearing is held and the property owners have the opportunity to support or oppose the project after the tentative assessments are calculated.

The project debt must be retired through front footage and service connection assessments, Newbrough said.

After the support / opposition is tabulated, the board of commissioners vote to approve or deny construction based on the results. If over 50 percent of the property owners, based on frontage, support the project, the board of commissioners will move forward to construction, Newbrough explained.

But that method means people who need or want water are at the mercy of people who may not have the same incentives to tie in.

“Since I started at the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineers in 2004, we’ve held approximately six public hearings for public water service and none have been approved after the public hearing. The opposed property owners have outweighed the property owners in support of the project every time,” Newbrough said.

But when the county went through the Blueprint to Prosperity Waterline Initiative Project, a new method arose, Newbrough said.

“When the county received the generous financial package from OEPA for the Blueprint Project, we had to formulate a different method for retiring the debt without the use of front foot assessments since we had no petitions for the project area. The general premise was that no one would be forced to pay anything if they choose not to be a part of the project,” Newbrough said.

The long-term debt would be retired through a monthly capital charge attached to the water bills of the voluntary customers. The capital charge will be adjusted based on the number of customers contributing to the project debt.

“Now, we are looking at extending public water service into other areas of the county using a similar methodology to the Blueprint Project,” Newbrough said. “Per the letter mailed out the property owners, there will be no cost if you choose not to participate.”

The scope of the project will not be determined until the interest survey results are tabulated.

“If a property owner is willing to pay a monthly capital charge of $35 per month, I estimate that any project will require an average of 40 service connections per mile in order to retire the long-term debt. We may exceed this figure in the more densely populated areas and be short of the mark in sparsely populated areas as long as the average is 40 service connections per mile, we may be able to extend the lines,” Newbrough said.

The charge would appear on county water bills for 30 years for all customers that opt to have a connection.

The figure is contingent on financing through zero percent loans offered through the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Supply Revolving Loan Account Program.

“The monthly capital charge will probably require adjustments up or down with the addition of grant funds to offset the debt in order to produce a financially feasible project,” Newbrough said. “Before we can strategize that far ahead, the county needs to know who needs water, where they are located and if they are willing to contribute approximately $35 per month to receive water service,” Newbrough said.

The interest survey is due Nov. 30. The results are expected to be analyzed by the end of the year.

Property owners would have to pay the costs to properly abandon their existing water source, including a $55 water sealing permit through the Trumbull County Combined Health District. The cost of the construction of line from the curb box to the structure will vary from household to household, but a permit connection would cost $339, unless the structure is more than 200 feet from where the curb box is installed, then the price rises to $2,200, according to the survey.

Existing customers in the Champion-Bazetta Public Water System is $9.53 per 1,000 gallons. A household that uses an average of 4,000 gallons of water per month would pay about $38 for the water, plus the $35 capital charge.

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