Waynesville studies sewer, water changes

Village might turn over utilities to Warren County.

Waynesville is weighing whether to turn over its water and sewer systems to Warren County.

The village sewer plant needs at least $1 million in maintenance, according to village officials.

The plant also needs as much as $10 million in upgrades to handle a doubling of in-flows projected from new developments outside village limits, officials said.

The village council voted this month to begin negotiations on turning over the plants, water towers and other liabilities, as well as rate-paying water and sewer customers, to the county.

“We lose the revenue potential,” Councilman Dick Elliott said, “but at the same time we lose the liability, and the liability is huge.”

In addition to maintenance and capital costs, ownership of a sewer system comes with potential liabilities resulting from malfunctions, such as release of untreated sewage into the Little Miami River.

The council also is considering ending service to customers outside the village, while retaining the utilities for local users.

While less costly than a sewer system, retaining the water system would leave the village with staff costs nearly as high as if it maintained both utilities, officials said.

Waynesville recently emerged after six years in fiscal emergency, but faces future funding problems unless voters renew a 1-percent income tax that expires on June 30, 2015. Maintaining the utilities is likely to require large rate hikes, officials said.

“It’s kind of tough sometimes for villages to own and operate treatment plants,” said Chris Brausch, who heads the county Water and Sewer Department.

The county could take on the village utilities, Brausch said.

“It’s something we would be interested in exploring with them,” Brausch said. “What the county is looking for is a long-term solution.”

The county and village have an agreement through 2019, but the need for additional sewer capacity is prompting officials to confront the issue now.

In June, the village expects the results of a study determining the cost and likely rate hikes needed for the village to maintain the utilities. Next year, Waynesville projects a reduction in the sewer fund, indicating rates might need to be raised regardless.

The council voted unanimously to talk about turning over the sewer system, but Mayor David Stubbs opposed talks over the water system because of the future revenue potential.

“I would rather not right now put water on the table,” Stubbs said.

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