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Published: Friday, 10/1/2004

Swancreek water board may dissolve over deficit

DELTA, Ohio - Facing a projected deficit in its 2005 budget, the Swancreek Township Water District board is looking into the possibility of turning over its operations to Fulton County and dissolving the district.

"The board has agreed to pursue talks with the county to do that," Kim Baker, treasurer of the water board, said yesterday.

No formal vote has been taken about the district, but Ms. Baker said the board would seek information to see if the county would be interested in assuming the district's operations.

Vond Hall, county administrator, said that a meeting with water board members and the county commissioners will be scheduled for next week.

Ms. Baker projects an $18,000 shortfall in the district's operating budget next year, but that figure could be low. The $89,000 budget is bare-bones, and doesn't include funds to cover costs for waterline maintenance or repair.

The budget also lacks funds to pay loans that the board owes, including a planning loan, she said. "Debt is an issue."

Board members have considered options to cut costs, such as eliminating pay for board members, and have talked about increasing water rates, but one of the reasons for the budget shortfall is lack of customers, Ms. Baker said.

Of the 600 potential water- line customers along Fulton County Road 2, only 88 have signed up for taps. The new line along County Road 2 has been providing water to a couple of dozen customers for a few days. "I think under 30 have tapped in," Ms. Baker said, but contractors are working to hook up the others who want water service.

By law, Swancreek Township trustees cannot assume the operations of the water district, said Trustee Randal Ruge, who has well water at his home and doesn't plan to hook into the new waterline. It would be worthwhile to explore options to ensure that the water district is financially viable, he said.

The district's operating budget has been a concern because there was no business plan that demonstrated its viability. The district's finances continue to be a concern, Mr. Ruge said.

The board has been under fire from residents since before it approved a $2.98 million contract in March for lines to provide public water to more than 600 properties. Many property owners have objected to the expense of the waterline project.

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