STEUBENVILLE - The Jefferson County commissioners have made a final offer concerning the Smithfield water system.
County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the offer doesn't differ much from the previous offer that would have seen the county take over the village's water system, forgive up to $150,000 in owed water bills and make improvements to the village's water system.
The county has gone back to common pleas court trying to recover money owed by Smithfield for water purchased. Graham said the amount has increased to $135,000.
The original debt dates back to 2004, when the commissioners filed a lawsuit to collect $267,354 owed for water bills. The village has nearly paid off that amount.
The village has agreed to turn the system over to the county, but wants cash to be paid in addition to the water debt being forgiven, no increases in rates for five years and village water workers getting a job at the county water and sewer department.
Graham said the county can't agree to not increase rates just for Smithfield and can't guarantee jobs for village workers.
The letter from the county's attorney, Anthony Pecora, to Smithfield Solicitor Bryan Felmet stated the county's water rate is actually lower than Smithfield's rate.
Graham said the county water and sewer department stated it would cost $800,000 to make repairs to Smithfield's water system, mainly lines and the water tank.
"Smithfield can't afford to fix its system at that cost," Graham said.
The letter to Felmet states the $800,000 to fix the system, plus the $150,000 in debt forgiveness, puts the county expenditure for the system at close to $1 million.
"The county's position is to not pay the village any money toward the purchase of the water system, particularly since the county can expend far less on building its system outside the village limits and by bypassing Smithfield altogether," the letter from Pecora stated.
Smithfield Mayor Ted Boyd couldn't be reached for comment.
The village has until Aug. 6 to respond. The county will proceed with legal action to collect the water bill debt owed by Smithfield if the village denies the offer, Graham said.
Pecora stated in his letter that the county also will seek a "gradual separation of water services to the village." He said the county will provide the village a reasonable amount of time to seek another water source and transition the supply obligations over to the new supplier.