Friday, July 28, 2000

Butler may build own water plant

Hamilton says that would break contract

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The Butler County commissioners, who have been fighting with Hamilton over water prices for five years, say building a county-owned water treatment plant might be the best solution.

        But Hamilton City Manager Steve Sorrell said that would violate a contract the county signed 11 years ago to buy water from Hamilton.

        The commissioners decid ed Thursday to explore the feasibility of a county plant that would provide water for its service area — Liberty, West Chester and Fairfield townships.

        The county will hire a consultant to study the feasibility of its own plant at an undetermined site.

        If the county could provide its own water for county users, customers of the county and of the Hamilton water systems would enjoy lower water rates, the commissioners said.

        “We feel all customers will benefit from this,” Commissioner Courtney Combs said.

        A contract signed in 1989 requires Butler County to buy most of its water from Hamilton until 2014. The price the county pays for Hamilton water affects how much it charges its customers.

        County officials have accused the city of overcharging. City officials say they have been charging a fair price. Both sides have battled in court over the issue.

        Hamilton has balked at allowing the county to increase the amount of water it buys from other providers.

        The county prosecutor's office told the commissioners its water contract with Hamilton allows the county to build its own water treatment plant.

        But Mr. Sorrell disagreed.

        “I believe they are grossly misreading the contract provisions,” he said.

        The average Butler County residential water customer pays about $30 a month, one of the highest rates in the Tristate.

        It would cost $22 million to $25 million to build a water treatment plant that would provide county users 15 million gallons a day, said Tony Parrott, director of the Butler County Department of Environmental Services.

        Mr. Parrott said he is worried about Hamilton's ability to provide enough water to the county on a long-term basis.

        “Hamilton has a limited supply at this time, and that's a concern for us,” he said.

        The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is considering a proposal to allow Hamilton to increase its water capacity by 3 million gallons a day.

        That would help the county's immediate water needs, but not its long-term needs, Mr. Parrott said.


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