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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

Delta: Water assessment confusion addressed

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - Swancreek Township Water District board members are working to clear up confusion over $123 assessments sent out to landowners across the township.

Some residents are asking why they are being assessed while others have questioned why all parcels, including some ditches and farmland, were assessed.

Walt Lange, a member of the water board, said that some assessment notices were sent out by mistake apparently because the board failed to communicate with the Fulton County auditor and treasurer about the parcels to be assessed. Revenue from the assessments will be used to pay for planning and startup costs for the water district.

Part of the problem stemmed from sending assessments - $123 per parcel - to each parcel in the township. Assessments for land in agricultural districts should have been deferred, Mr. Lange said, which the water board did last week. However, the assessment cannot be deferred if a parcel in an agriculture district has a home on it, he said.

Assessment notices also were mistakenly sent to parcels under ditch maintenance, but the water board has decertified those, Mr. Lange said. The board also has decertified parcels where homeowners receive water from Delta or Swanton.

In response to calls and questions from residents, the water board will draw up criteria for the assessments and will then meet with residents to discuss the assessments. That way, the water board will be able to reconsider the assessments based on the outlined conditions, he said. It could take more than a couple weeks to draw up the criteria, Mr. Lange said.

Some residents have questioned whether additional assessments would be sent out to cover the loss in revenue from decertified parcels, but Mr. Lange said that there are no plans to reassess property owners. The Ohio Water Development Authority is willing to give the water board an opportunity to work out a payment schedule for the planning loan, he said.

Mr. Lange said that he and water board member Kim Baker met recently with the county auditor and treasurer about the assessments. No figures were available on how many people have paid the assessments or how many have paid who are entitled to refunds.

Perhaps 40 parcels are in agriculture districts, he said, that could be eligible for deferrals. Property owners must have signed up their land as part of an agriculture district; it is not an automatic designation, he said. Deferred assessments would have to be paid if the land is developed, such as for a housing site.

Some residents were upset by the assessment notices in part because they weren't aware that the township has a water district, but Mr. Lange said that notices were published for public hearings held on the assessments. Officials noted that this is a one-time assessment to cover the water district's startup costs.

During the Swancreek Township trustees' meeting last week, several residents who live in sections of the township where public water lines are not being installed questioned why they were being assessed $123.

Trustee Jim Meyer explained that the assessments were sent out across the township because the water district covers the entire township and those residents could benefit one day from the public water lines.



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