County on hook for jail’s water, sewer bills

LISBON – New water and sewer service to the Columbiana County Jail has county commissioners on the hook for the monthly bills until they can work something out with the company hired to operate the facility.

Both services became available this year to the County Home Road area of Center Township as part of separate projects undertaken by commissioners. In addition to the jail, the area is home to the county sheriff’s office, dog pound, Robert Bycroft School and workshops for the developmentally disabled, and the Louis Tobin juvenile detention facility.

The government agencies were served by wells and mini-sewage treatment plants. The plan was to get them sanitary sewer service by building a single, more efficient sewage treatment plant along County Home Road. Municipal water service came from tapping into a Salem waterline located about a mile north of the area.

The construction loans and operating expenses were to be shared by the various government agencies, based on usage. Commissioners were required to pay for the jail, sheriff’s office and dog pound.

Community Education Centers Inc. operates the jail under a contract with commissioners which requires the company to pay all utilities, but that excluded water or sewer service since there was none until this year. The CEC also paid the sheriff’s electric bill even though it was not required to do so. The sheriff’s office is located in the jail basement.

The question became who was responsible for the jail portion of the water and sewer bills, which total $3,400 per month, and Commissioner Jim Hoppel said they will be for now. He noted the contract extension is up for a renewal in 2014, and this is an issue they can take up in negotiations with CEC.

“Now that we do have water and sewer we have to wait until the end of the year. You just can’t change the terms in the middle of contract,” he said.

The company has indicated a willingness to discuss the issue, and Hoppel said CEC has been more than fair with them over the years by agreeing to also pay the sheriff’s electric bill.

Hoppel said commissioners are willing to continue paying the $2,839 a month that goes towards paying off the construction loans, which is separate from the monthly water and sewer service fee based on usage.

“It’s all got to be worked out, and they appear to be willing to discuss it, so we’ll go from there,” he said.