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Published: Thursday, 11/25/2004

Fulton County keeps sewer plan

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON - Fulton County's three sewer districts will have separate rates after all - at least for next year.

In a contentious meeting yesterday the county commissioners unanimously reversed the decision they made last week to combine three sewer districts into one and equalize the rates.

That means the Pettisville community, which has the largest sewer district, next year will continue to pay significantly lower rates than the Pleasant View area south of Delta in Swan Creek Township and the county airport area north of Wauseon in Dover Township.

The commission reversed last week's decision because Commissioner Dean Genter, who cast the "no" vote in last week's 2-1 decision, found that the county's three sewer districts had been set up as individual subdistricts decades ago. Because of that, the districts could not be combined with the motion approved last week, which assumed a county-wide district already existed.

In an unusual move at a county commission meeting, Mr. Genter asked his attorney, Jeffrey Robinson, to attend and answer questions, at Mr. Genter's expense.

Mr. Genter said he asked Mr. Robinson instead of Fulton County Prosecutor Roger Nagel because the commission would have had to agree to ask Mr. Nagel to answer questions at the meeting and would have had to address questions to him in writing. He added that Mr. Nagel was busy with equal employment opportunity disputes at the county Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities board.

The other commissioners - Jack Graf and Paul Barnaby - said after the meeting they were surprised by Mr. Robinson's presence. Mr. Barnaby said he would have agreed to ask the prosecutor to attend the meeting if Mr. Genter had requested it. Mr. Graf said he possibly would have agreed, but he saw no need for legal counsel at yesterday's meeting.

"I found it inappropriate that a commissioner would go out on his own and seek legal advice that is directly related to the decisions of the board," Mr. Graf said.

The commissioners said they had to make a decision on the sewer districts yesterday because they had already missed their deadline to present the sewer rates to the county auditor and they had canceled their regular Monday meeting to attend a convention. The county sewer bills appear as a special assessment on real estate taxes.

Next year's annual rates for a typical household will be:

●$166, up from $144 this year, in Pettisville, which is on the German-Clinton Township line and has 299 sewer customers. Rates increased because of anticipated repairs in 2005.

●$400, up from $398 this year, in Pleasant View, which has 54 sewer customers in Swan Creek Township.

●$1,090, down from $1,260, in the airport area, which has 20 commercial customers. Rates fell there because of fewer anticipated repairs next year.

Under last week's decision to combine the districts, a typical household in all three areas would have paid the Pettisville rate of $166.

Even though that would have decreased the county's total sewer revenues, it would have been possible because of the combined customer base, county administrator Vond Hall said. Mr. Genter has argued that such a move would have meant Pettisville was subsidizing the other districts.

The districts might be combined for 2006, however. Commissioners Barnaby and Graf spoke in favor of doing so after yesterday's meeting.

"I feel guilty charging someone $400 per unit in the Swan Creek area and it's $166 in the Pettisville area," Commissioner Barnaby said. "This is all Fulton County."

Mr. Graf said that in five to 10 years, as more sewer customers are added throughout the county, the Pettisville area would benefit by being part of a larger customer base. But he said there would not be a benefit to Pettisville before then.

Mr. Genter said Pettisville wants to maintain its independence.

Mr. Graf or Mr. Barnaby could have introduced a different motion yesterday to combine the sewer districts. But Mr. Graf said they needed to do more research before taking another step.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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