Commissioners working with state on treatment plant compromise

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners are close to reaching a compromise with the state that would give them more time to build a mini-sewage treatment plant for the Kensington area.

County Engineer Bert Dawson, who has taken the lead on the project in his dual capacity as county sanitary engineer, said the final details could be worked out in the next couple of months with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC).

“We’ve gotten our plans for it completed, and now we’re just negotiating a timetable,” he said.

The county is under an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency order to provide sanitary sewer service to the Kensington area because of the health and environmental problems created by malfunctioning septic systems. Kensington is an unincorporated area in Hanover Township and, as such, is the responsibility of commissioners when it comes to water and sewer issues.

The OEPA required construction of the Kensington plant to begin by this June, which the county was unable to meet unless it wanted to bear the entire expense itself and pass 100 percent of the cost onto the residents and businesses required to hook into the new sewer line. Had they done this, Dawson estimated the assessment would have been $17,000 per property owner.

The county filed an appeal in 2011 with ERAC seeking a timetable extension that would buy them enough time to secure state and federal grants to lower the project cost and, in doing so, lower the assessment charged the 70 to 90 effected households. Without grants, the entire cost of the project would be borne by the customers in the form of assessments and high monthly user fees.

Dawson said the time spent appealing the OEPA decision allowed them to obtain a combination of state and federal grants and loans to cover the entire $1.56 million estimated cost. They were able to obtain federal and state grants to cover half the cost and a no-interest state loan to pay the remainder.

“That’s our goal on anything we do, to get at least 50 percent grants,” he said. “We want our share and somebody’s else’s too.”

As Dawson said before, design and construction plans have already been approved, which means they will be able to begin work that much sooner, once a new timetable is reached.

“A lot of the mileposts we’ve already met,” he said.

The county is considering building the mini-plant at the corner of the community park along U.S. Route 30 in Kensington, which is owned by the township.

Dawson said there is still the matter of the $5,000 fine for failing to meet the original timeline, which the OEPA considers non-negotiable. If required to pay it, the fine will just be rolled into construction costs.