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Published: Thursday, 10/6/2005

Napoleon mayor vows to resist EPA

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - Water and sewer bills for the typical Napoleon area home might be $400 a year higher in 2008 than residents are paying now, but it won't be with the blessing of the mayor, who has vowed to fight the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's orders for the city.

City council in this Henry County seat is considering 8 percent a year increases in its water rates and 18 percent a year increases in its sewer rates for the next three years.

Such increases would pay for tens of millions of dollars in changes the EPA says Napoleon must make to stop sanitary sewer overflows into the Maumee River and reduce a by-product of chlorinating drinking water called trihalomethanes, City Manager Jon Bisher said.

But Mayor Andy Small promised at Monday night's council meeting to veto the proposed sewer increases, saying the EPA is ordering the city to make too many expensive changes too quickly.

"It's the principle of the thing," he said yesterday. "At some point, somebody has to stand up and say enough is enough."

In his prepared statement for council, he wrote: "I implore you to join me in resistance to the crippling regulations that have come down from the almighty, omnipotent EPA. Unfortunately, it appears that officials at the EPA have no faith in communities handling problems on their own, nor do they care what ill effects their decisions have on communities."

A final vote on the proposed water rate increase is expected Nov. 7 after a second reading on Oct. 17. Monday's first reading got a 6-0 yes vote, with council President Glen Miller absent.

The proposed sewer rate increases were tabled Monday, but are to come up again Oct. 17. To overcome a mayoral veto, five of the city's seven councilmen would have to approve the increases.

Mr. Bisher, who said it's almost impossible to fight the EPA and win, said he thought there are five yes votes on council. The mayor said there might not be.

If the proposed rate increases are be approved, they would take effect Jan. 1.

Napoleon's drinking water meets EPA standards now, but the city must spend $2 million for improvements in 2007 to meet what will be stricter standards in 2008, Mr. Bisher said.

Typical residential customers now pay about $34 a month for water. Napoleon has almost 3,700 water customers in the city and surrounding townships.

It also sells water to nearby Liberty Center, Malinta, and Okolona.

With sewer, the city is not operating within EPA standards and is expected to be issued findings and orders within months. A 20-year plan to bring the city into compliance is predicted to cost $33 million.

Sewer services now cost the typical residential customer almost $40 a month.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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