By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN
COLUMBIANA - Water rates will likely be raised for city customers in the future.
City Manager Keith Chamberlin said last week the rate increases will be "soon," after being asked by Councilman Bob Bieshelt if that was going to happen as a result of the new water treatment plant project.
The project was originally estimated at $14.6 million but council members learned in July the project would cost roughly $150,000 more due to being delayed since anticipated state funding wasn't available. The increase was requested by Dave Frank and Chris Ryman of Arcadis Engineering, the company hired by the city on a $690,000 contract in 2008.
Chamberlin said last week the amended cost was approved by the state Department of Agriculture, the agency funding most of the project through a grant and zero-interest loan.
The plant was set to be designed, bid and constructed by 2011 and is now targeted to be completed by 2014.
Bieshelt, who has said over the course of the project that residents should not have to pay for the project, noted the city has raised water rates on customers three times over the years, and believed a surplus should be built up in the water fund by now and could offset the cost.
Finance Director Mike Harold said the fund does not have a surplus and Chamberlin attributed it to having to pay for things that "come up" unexpectedly, like repairing a water tank and other necessary expenses.
Bieshelt then asked Chamberlin to estimate what the rate increase would be for customers, but he declined.
"I don't want to do that now, but it'll be coming here real soon," Chamberlin said.
On a related matter, by a 4-2 vote, council tabled a resolution to file a petition to annex the 134 acres of property where the existing water plant is located.
Council had passed a first reading at its last meeting, with Bieshelt casting the only dissenting vote. The second reading was tabled on his suggestion since council did not receive copies of maps showing the planned annexation.
Bieshelt has opposed filing the petition since it includes neighboring farm properties, which he believes should be voted on separately.
The 134 acres is located in Fairfield Township on the southeast end of the city near Metz Road and the annexation is part of the city's plans to construct the new water treatment plant there.
Councilmen Lowell Schloneger and Tom Ferguson opposed tabling the legislation.
In other business, Chamberlin requested council remove the only new business item listed on the agenda.
The item was a motion to appoint three people to an Income Tax Board of Review. He requested it be removed because he wants to find more people to serve on the board, which is being formed as a result of a taxpayer filing a formal request on Sept. 15.
Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell would not reveal what the request was and said all tax matters are required to be kept confidential.
The city has 45 days to form the review board and hear from the resident, he added.