Groveport's plans to seek bids for construction of a new water plant remain on hold after city council took no vote March 10 on a resolution authorizing the use of bond proceeds to pay for the project.
Councilman Ed Rarey introduced new legislation March 10 that was identical to the resolution that failed at the Feb. 24 meeting because, even though the vote was 3-2 in favor, the city charter requires four votes to enact a resolution.
With only four council members at last week's meeting -- one of whom was Councilman Ed Dildine, who has consistently opposed building a new plant -- it seemed evident the new resolution would not be approved March 10. Instead, it was held for further discussion by council sitting as a Committee of the Whole.
The Ohio EPA told city officials in 2009 that Groveport's water plant, built in 1936, no longer met water safety regulations.
The debate over whether the city should build a new plant or join the city of Columbus water system has gone on since 2012, when a feasibility study was done.
Dildine and Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert have never supported the plan to build a new water plant, preferring instead to have the city link to the Columbus water system, which already serves 1,500 customers in Groveport. Another 1,200 customers currently get their service through Groveport's water system.
The city has planned to use bond proceeds of no more than $2,187,900 to build a new water treatment plant. According to legislation approved by council in 2012, water rates will increase by 96 percent over six years to pay for the new facility.
Bruce Smith expressed concern March 10 that he and other Groveport residents might have to choose between the water plant and the schools.
"There are a lot of us who see this 96-percent increase in water rates, and we see the schools who desperately need money, and it's hard on our finances," Smith said. "I think you need to find a way to take this to the people for a vote."
Mayor Lance Westcamp said it would take a citizen referendum to bring the water issue to the ballot. He suggested that city council could put forward a referendum to move the remaining 1,200 Groveport water customers over to the Columbus water system.
City Administrator Marsha Hall had hoped council would vote on the water plant resolution March 10, which would have allowed the city to proceed with a bid opening that has already been delayed until April 4. That seems likely to be delayed again, since the latest water plant resolution is scheduled for a second reading at the March 24 council meeting, with a potential third reading and final vote occurring April 14.
Law Director Kevin Shannon said he does not anticipate city council would try to pass the legislation as an emergency; instead he believes it will have three full readings.
Hall pointed out after the Feb. 24 council meeting that the city has no choice -- it must either build a new water plant or contract with the city of Columbus for service.
"The Ohio EPA isn't going to allow us to continue operating the way we have been," she said. "Even if we contract with the city of Columbus, there's still a cost to do that switch, so the rate increases we've started will be necessary either way and the money we've already spent will come from the current water funds."