Funding may fuel Hanoverton project

LISBON — After nearly 20 years, the stalled Hanoverton sewer project may finally be moving forward.

Columbiana County commissioners last week approved an agreement to accept a $1 million grant for the project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the first source of real funding obtained since the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency first ordered the village in 2002 to replace residential septic systems with municipal sewer service.

Troy Graft, chief deputy county sanitary engineer, said the grant represents “the first piece of the financial puzzle to sewer Hanoverton.”

The 2002 OEPA sewer order also applied to the nearby crossroads community of Kensington, about two miles away. This was the county’s responsibility because Kensington, unlike Hanoverton, is an unincorporated area. The county complied with the order by building a small sewage treatment plant large enough to eventually accept sewage from Hanoverton.

Hanoverton has been unable to secure any funding for the project, which is why nothing has happened. In 2016, the OEPA asked county Engineer Bert Dawson’s office to assume responsibility for the project, and he agreed to do so if certain conditions were met. The two sides are still in talks over those conditions, “but we’re still going to try to do what we can to get some grants for the project regardless of who does it,” he said.

Graft believes with the Army Corps of Engineer grant the county will be in a better position to qualify for other grants and low-interest loans. “It will open the door to other funding,” he said.

The original plan back in 2002 was to build a treatment plant in Hanoverton and run sewer lines to Kensington, but the county flipped the plan because the village could not afford to build its own facility. Now, sewer lines will be run from Hanoverton to the Kensington plant. Graft estimated the cost, which is to include pump stations, will be $4.5 million and is expected to benefit about 180 households in and around Hanoverton.

The Army Corps of Engineers needed a commitment from the county before the federal budget year ends on Sept. 30, but Graft said they can return the funds without penalty should the project fall apart, but he does not expect that happen.

As for assuming responsibility for Hanoverton, Dawson said in 2016 he would do so if the state would forgive what remains (less than $400,000) of a state loan received in the early 1990s when the Hanoverton project was first proposed. The project was later abandoned after Hanoverton residents approved a citizen ballot referendum refusing to participate in the project, but now the village is under OEPA orders to comply.

His other condition was the state would guarantee there would be enough state and federal grants awarded for the project to not only ensure the monthly user fee would not exceed whatever Kensington residents have to pay but also eliminate the need for property owners to pay a tap fee. Dawson said he and the state are still in negotiations.