Lordstown pursues Ultium sewer deal
WARREN — Following the deal between Ultium Cells LLC and Trumbull County for sanitary sewer treatment rates, the village of Lordstown is pursuing the new battery plant as its own sanitary sewer customer.
Though the county will collect $6.66 from the company per 1,000 gallons that flow from the plant being constructed now, the village intends to claim the plant as its own customer and is expected to charge a fee on top of the county’s treatment rate.
“Ultium will be our customer,” Mayor Arno Hill said.
The flow will be carried on county sanitary sewer lines to a treatment plant in Warren. Warren charges the county about $3.49 per 1,000 gallons to treat the sewage.
Other county customers, residential and commercial, pay the $6.66 rate; the county does not have a bulk rate for businesses.
Though the flow will travel mostly on county lines, a 1,600-foot pipeline will be extended from the former General Motors assembly plant — which is being used by Lordstown Motors to build the Endurance electric truck — to meet the existing county lines.
Because of a prior court decision, the village is able to claim new sanitary sewer customers in the village for its sewer district in the case of a line extension. But to completely handle Ultium’s flow by itself, the village would need more treatment capacity and a bigger line extension.
The village asked the county to consider the village’s fee when negotiating the rate deal with Ultium to keep the costs for the company lower, but the county didn’t cooperate, Hill said.
“The county cut us no slack. They could have reduced the rate, but the county had no desire to work with us,” Hill said. “They could have cut the rate to show good faith. They could still make money if they dropped it a little.”
The village will handle billing the company for the fee it charges, which has not been set as negotiations are ongoing, Hill said.
“Our main sticking point is that we receive our rate, 6.66 per thousand gallons, because that is the same rate that every user pays in the district. For all intents and purposes, that is what we, the county, need to be concerned with, not so much whose customer the plant is,” Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said. “If Lordstown wants the plant as their customer and they choose to tack on a fee of .50 or .60 cents, that is entirely up to them. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but that is their choice.”
County commissioners are expected to hear today from their attorney, Daniel Thomas, who assisted them in negotiating the $6.66 rate, county Commissioner Frank Fuda said. Fuda said it isn’t business friendly for the village to pursue Ultium.
“They want them as their customers to tack on more money just to make money off them for not doing anything. We can send them their bills without an extra fee,” Fuda said.
He argued that Ultium should pay the same rate as other sewer customers and that the county’s sewer district needs that rate to keep it solvent.
“Warren wouldn’t budge on the rate we pay them; Lordstown wants to make money. So the only one they wanted to lose out of this is our 22,000 customers. They want us to take that money out of customers’ pockets in larger rate increases to sustain the lower price, and I ain’t doing that,” Fuda said.
In the deal for the $6.66 rate with Ultium, the county agreed to waive a tie-in fee, which could have been $1.8 million.
Hill said the county should have worked with him, but Fuda and Cantalamessa would not and accused him of trying to make “backroom deals,” which he denies.
“The county wants to come along and be there for a ribbon cutting, but does nothing to get the businesses here or promote them,” Hill said.
Fuda accused Commissioner Dan Polivka of making “backroom deals” with Hill and others, which Polivka denied.
“We never met,” Polivka said.
Cantalamessa said something needs to be done to set regulations and policies on how to proceed with these deals in the future.
“I’ve been saying this for some time though — we need to streamline this process. We need to make this process as simple and fair as we can or we run the risk of stifling development,” Cantalamessa said.