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County, Ultium reach sewer deal

Battery-cell plant to pay standard rate, get tie-in fee waived

WARREN — Trumbull County and representatives of Ultium Cells LLC have reached a deal on sanitary sewer rates and tie-in fees for the General Motors / LG Chem battery plant.

The joint venture is being built adjacent to the former GM assembly plant in Lordstown.

The company agreed to Trumbull County’s standard rate of $6.66 per 1,000 gallons treated — the rate the county’s other sanitary sewer customers pay, said attorney Daniel P. Thomas, representing the county in the negotiations.

“We have a tentative agreement with Ultium. We are working out details of the agreement, but negotiations worked out well for the county. They are taking the $6.66 rate, and the county will waive the tie-in fee. The rate remains standard in the county, and 22,000 other customers get the same rate. We are very satisfied with the agreement,” Thomas said.

The company won’t be required to pay a tie-in fee, which could have been as much as $1.8 million.

The facility at full production will employ about 1,000 production employees and about 200 salaried support team members. Construction on the sprawling facility on 158 acres is underway with more than 250 tons of steel already erected.

The company is expected to tap in to the county’s sewer system by going through the connection at the old GM car plant. The connection is not expected to be labor intensive.

The deal that was struck is only between the county and the company. Some questions were raised earlier this year if the village of Lordstown should have some part in the sanitary sewer deal. But if that is to happen, it will be between the village and the company, Thomas said.

The sewage will flow through county-owned sewer lines, and the county will handle billing the company.

The village wanted the company to be its customer and asked the county to handle billing for Ultium in order to collect a fee from the company. That fee would be tacked on to whatever rate the company pays for sewage processing. The village wanted the county to take a lower rate for sewage processing in order to make the extra fee amenable to the company.

Many county representatives, however, were against lowering the rate — as a matter of fairness to other county customers and because the county’s sanitary sewer district could not stay solvent if a discount was given.

“If Lordstown wants to do something with Ultium and Ultium wants to, it will be up to Lordstown and the company to arrange. Or they can stay with us, and there won’t be any add-on fee,” Thomas said.

County commissioners said they are happy with the deal.

“This is a great agreement, and I support it wholeheartedly,” Commissioner Dan Polivka said. “This agreement is good for the county and we appreciate (Ultium) agreeing to it. The 1,100 new jobs will be a great shot in the arm for Trumbull County.”

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said, “It’s only fair that the battery plant pay the same rate as every other user in our sewer district.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the solvency of the district. We were able to negotiate a reasonable accommodation on the tap-in fees and a five-year rate lock. I’ve made this a priority to promote the success of the company and the expansion of jobs. It’s these types of cooperative efforts that allow us to continue to rebrand and reinvent Trumbull County with new jobs in energy and automotive,” Cantalamessa said.

Commissioner Frank Fuda said some people in the county wanted to negotiate with Lordstown to help the village get a seat at the table.

“Randy Smith (county engineer) and Dan Polivka were looking at negotiating at Lordstown to give them a share, but Mauro and I stuck to our guns and got the $6.66 rate. We should always be representing our customers in all of these things. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen,” Fuda said.

Smith said previously he believed the county should work with Lordstown in case the village decided to take legal action against the county for leaving it out of the deal.

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