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Lordstown should let go of plant sewer fight

Debate is continuing over whether the village of Lordstown, which played an instrumental role in securing the General Motors-LG Chem battery plant being built in the village, also should play a role in the sewer service.

As it appears now, wastewater from the new plant, known as Ultium Cells LLC, will travel through sewer lines owned by Trumbull County. The county also is equipped to handle the billing, as it does for all its sanitary sewer customers. County officials met in recent weeks with officials from the GM-LG Chem joint venture, and the county now has made a rate and tap-in proposal for the plant.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill suggests, however, the county should consider collecting less than its usual sewage treatment rate of $6.66 per 1,000 gallons of flow and allow the difference to be paid to Lordstown, perhaps in exchange for billing services.

Lordstown does control some wastewater lines in eastern Trumbull County, for which it charges a sewage rate of $5 per 1,000 gallons. The problem is, however, these lines likely are not the ones that will handle the new plant’s sewage treatment.

County officials say reducing their rates would be unfair, particularly to all other county customers who pay the full $6.66 sewage treatment rate.

Now, Lordstown officials believe they are being left out in the cold, largely because they have worked hard from the very beginning to bring the plant here but will see relatively little revenue from the project. Hill believes the new plant should be the village’s sanitary sewer customer.

“We brought the business in. … Shouldn’t we get a small piece of that pie?” Hill said recently. “Nobody has done anything else to bring business in.”

Hill points out that even with the property tax abatement, Lordstown Exempted Village School District stands to collect about $650,000 per year, along with a portion of the projected annual income tax. In all, Hill says the school district will see close to $900,000 per year in revenue after the new plant opens.

Conversely, the village will see only about $225,000 per year, or about half of the $450,000 expected in income tax. That’s unfair, the mayor says, because the village will provide police, fire and EMS services, along with road maintenance and other services.

Anytime Lordstown village is involved in a tax abatement request of more than 50 percent, it is required to enter into an income tax sharing agreement with the schools. The tax abatement granted to Ultium Cells for this project is 75 percent for 15 years.

Faced with declining revenue streams over the past three years, village officials in January approached the school district seeking permission to keep all the income tax on this project.

The board of education refused by a 5-0 vote, due in large part to a breakdown in negotiations between the two Lordstown entities over whether a school official should have a seat at the tax abatement committee table.

Indeed, we understand the mayor’s frustration at the limited amount of revenue being generated from Ultium for the village. We understand Lordstown is not flush with cash and the village was instrumental from the ground level in securing the new plant.

Still, we cannot support this attempt to utilize wastewater service as a revenue source if, at the end of the day, the village is not providing any part of this necessary utility. That would be disingenuous and inappropriate.

There can be no debate that working together through regionalized efforts is good for everyone involved — including the business.

In this case, perhaps a better answer would be for Lordstown to revisit a deal with the Lordstown Board of Education.

The village and the school district must work together, not against one another, in order to provide the best education and services for the community. It is cooperation that gets things accomplished.

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