MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council is expected to consider a $6-per-month increase in sewer bills to pay for a state-mandated project at its next meeting after hearing from about a dozen residents at a public hearing on Thursday.
Councilman George Irvin Jr., chairman of council's water and sewer committee, said the village received a $2.4 million loan through the Ohio Water Development Authority to pay for an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency-mandated project to separate about 3,000 feet of sewerage and stormwater lines on Lincoln Avenue. Water lines on Lincoln Avenue also will be replaced as part of the project.
The Ohio EPA wanted the separation of the sewer lines to prevent too much water from going into the sewer plant during heavy rains and causing an overflow into the Ohio River.
Construction on the project is ready to begin.
He said the village will have to pay $135,000 ever year on the 1 percent loan.
There are 1,600 sewer customers. If each customer pays the extra $6 a month, it would generate about $153,000 a year.
There are five sewer separation projects in the village, totaling $8 million.
Resident Judy Ruckman asked how the village is going to pay for the other mandated projects.
"Where does it stop?" Ruckman said.
Mayor John Fabian said he believes the village will have 10 years before the next project is forced to begin.
"The EPA in the future will see we are a financially strapped community that had to dig deep to pay for (this project). I don't believe they will bother us in the future," he said.
Councilman Chuck Dickey said the village was offered the low-interest loan. When the deadline came to accept the loan, the village was told it would be fined by the Ohio EPA if it didn't move forward.
"I'm not ready to roll the dice with the EPA," he said, adding a second mandated project could be the end of Mingo Junction.
Councilman Michael Herrick said the village five years ago could have asked to be opted out of the project but that time has come and gone.
Resident Michael Maguschak asked about the total of delinquent accounts.
Nobody from the village administration could give a figure.
"That is going to be an issue for the residents," Maguschak said.
Steve Maguschak, village administrator, said Severstal steel owes the most at $125,000. The next largest delinquent account is $2,000.
Resident Kathy Maguschak wanted to know if the village is lax in shutting off service to delinquent customers.
"It isn't fair to the people who come down here and pay their bills on time," she said.
Fabian said the village is working to make the water and sewer plant, as well as other village operations, more efficient. He said several years ago there were 41 employees in the village, compared to the current number of 21.
Fabian said he is optimistic the village will be able to sell water for the fracking of oil and gas wells in the county, which will bring in extra revenue for the water department.
"We have two contracts to sell water, and we haven't sold one drop," he said.
Fabian said council is not happy about having to increase rates to residents. Some residents asked why the rates weren't gradually increased years ago. Fabian said it would have been a hard sell to ask for more money when the mill was operating and the village had surplus funds.