LEIPSIC — A roomful of concerned residents questioned the need for a new water and sewer district in Putnam County on Thursday. Perhaps a better question was whether the proposed district even affected them or their pocketbooks.
The proposed Black Swamp Regional Water & Sewer District is down to just five petitioners, the villages of Pandora and Leipsic and Miller, Palmer and Ottawa townships. Some members of the crowd at Leipsic’s village hall seemed surprised to learn the 6119 regional water and sewer district didn’t affect them if their elected officials weren’t part of the petition, a decision made in Continental and Ottawa recently. At one point, nearly half the governments in Putnam County had shown an interest in being part of the district.
“If you’re not among the five municipalities petitioning for this, then this will have absolutely no effect on you,” said Rex Huffman, an attorney from Spitler Huffman LLP who is working with the proposed group.
Several members of the crowd peppered the petitioners’ representatives with questions about cost, with Huffman responding from his experiences with other nearby water and sewer districts, which work together and borrow money separately from the individual governments.
DeWayne Utrup, of rural Columbus Grove, questioned the possible costs, noting figures from the Northwestern Water & Sewer District in Bowling Green ranged from a $6,000 to $23,000 cost for people tying into the system. He also questioned who would pay for major projects undertaken by the board.
Huffman said he’d advise letting people affected by a project pay the costs associated with it, but “your debate will be yours,” he said. He also said Utrup’s range was accurate, but the higher end figures came from a larger water and sewer user that wanted the services and included a larger residential and industrial base.
“We’ve seen all the rumors,” said Denny Verhoff, a representative for Palmer Township in northern Putnam County. “Most of them are just not true.”
The group can’t give hard, firm numbers because it doesn’t know what kind of projects it will tackle yet. None of the petitioning governments have findings and orders from the EPA requiring a major investment, Huffman said. He suspected a project to bring services to Miller City might be the top priority of the new organization, if it’s created.
The next meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at Pandora’s village hall.
A probate court judge will ultimately decide if the 6119 organization is necessary, after the group officially determines its first governments it will represent.
Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.