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Great Lakes Article:

Local officials oppose private water plant
By Rick Neale
Port Clinton News Herald
12/11/03


PORT CLINTON -- Ottawa and Sandusky county officials are opposing construction of a $49 million private water network near Camp Perry, saying the system is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money.

Northern Ohio Rural Water wants to ship Lake Erie water through underground pipes from eastern Ottawa County to Sandusky County. There, the Norwalk-based water authority plans to completely encircle Fremont with water lines, branching outward like bicycle spokes to serve customers in surrounding areas.

Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer doesn't like that idea. His city's water treatment plant will soon receive a $12.8 million upgrade, and he said he wants to sell water to Sandusky and Ballville townships to generate revenues.

Sandusky County Commissioner Brad Smith also opposes the NORW plan.

"We as commissioners are not supporting the Northern Ohio proposal for the new plant in Ottawa County to serve Sandusky County because there is extra capacity in all the plants in our county to serve the residents," he said in an interview early Wednesday. "It makes no sense to ship water from a county or two away when we have the ability to do it ourselves."

Wednesday night, Ottawa County Sanitary Engineer Kelly Frey rallied a contingent of local officials to discuss the NORW water network. They pored over maps and statistics at the Ottawa County Courthouse, and they listened to an anti-NORW presentation delivered by Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green.

Some of these leaders will likely lobby against the proposal next week. Wednesday afternoon, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments will listen to testimony on the matter, then vote to recommend or disapprove of NORW's effort to obtain federal grants for the project.

NORW proposes to build a $49 million water treatment plant at a 45-acre site off Ohio 2 near Camp Perry. That location is only about four miles from the headquarters of the $66 million Ottawa County Regional Water System.

Frey said Ottawa County has offered to sell NORW water, but the authority declined. According to Poggemeyer Design Group estimates, NORW could connect to the Ottawa County system for $4.6 million.

"Why should we drive separately when we can carpool?" Frey said. "It's like buying two houses for one family."

But Dennis O'Toole, a Sheffield Village lawyer representing NORW, said the full-scale project is feasible.

"It makes sense to have control of our own water supply," O'Toole said. "It seemed to our board, which consists of members from rural townships, that -- long-term -- the best thing they could do was have their own water source.

"You can't look at it as next year or the year after. You've got to look 40 years, 30 years into the future."

NORW presently serves about 1,400 Sandusky County customers in Green Creek, York and Townsend townships. O'Toole said the Seneca County commissioners support construction of the $49 million NORW network.

Sandusky Township Trustee Joe Luc and Ballville Township Trustee Roy Sadler said they weren't particularly interested who the provider was -- they just wanted water. Luc said he has attended NORW meetings for about a year to gather information, and Sadler said more than 140 Ballville Township residents have petitioned NORW for service.

Ottawa County Commissioner John Papcun asked O'Toole if NORW would compete for water customers within Ottawa County. O'Toole said no.


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