Licking County Commissioners formally notified Pataskala by letter May 17 to object to the city's plans to expand its sewer-service area under an EPA-approved "208 plan," in reference to the federal law that allows the EPA to designate sewer-service providers in a geographic area.

The Licking County commissioners formally notified Pataskala by letter May 17 that they object to the city's plans to expand its sewer-service area under an EPA-approved "208 plan," in reference to the federal law that allows the Ohio EPA to designate sewer-service providers in a geographic area.

Following a utility study performed in 2010 by W.E. Stilson Consulting, engineers for the city, Pataskala officials decided they would promote the city's utility service to expand its service area, allowing existing capital costs to be spread over a larger customer base.

The commssioners' letter states that the commissioners will pursue their objections with the EPA and asks that Pataskala limit its service to its corporate boundaries.

County commissioner Tim Bubb said the commissioners see the 208 plan as a way to avoid wasteful duplicate infrastructure.

"We view this as an overreach by Pataskala," Bubb said. "This 208 is a planning document in every county so you don't have redundancy. At a time when we are all struggling to pay for infrastructure and government service, one thing you don't need in water and sewer is laying lines on top of lines."

Bubb cited the construction of a second Reynoldsburg high school on Summit Road as an example of one entity already having collection lines installed and a second entity installing another set of lines.

"They spent a lot of money and put a lot of infrastructure in the ground but because the 208 plans conflicted and the service areas were on top of each other, essentially it allowed Reynoldsburg and Reynoldsburg schools to come in right on top of them with additional infrastructure and serve that area," Bubb said. "EPA allowed that to happen but our position is that is crazy. It is very expensive to put sewer and water infrastructure in the ground. In areas where that investment has been made and the service exists, creating confusion and overlap just does not seem in the interest of good government."

The millions of dollars spent on collection systems is paid for in rate increases to sewer system customers.

"Guess who pays the debt? People who are the customers do, through rates and debt service," Bubb said.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher made a distinction between the capacity to provide service, which, he said, was a legitimate planning question, from a decision to actually provide service.

"All we are being asked is, if there were service provided there, do we have the capacity to provide service?" Butcher said. "The answer is obviously yes, we do have the ability, if there were a need. If we were being asked today, would we provide service, the answer would be no, because we are not prepared today. In certain areas, such as the (state Route) 161 corridor, we might say yes, we are prepared to provide service, but we would need to debate that.

"We're only answering the question, do we have the ability to provide it? We don't know that we are even interested in providing it to most of the areas we are talking about. That's not the question that was asked."

Bubb said the commissioners would oppose adding overlapping access in the 208 planning area.

"They don't have the plant or infrastructure in place to do that," Bubb said. "They're taking advantage of the 208 process to just sort of cast a big wide net. It does not make sense.

"We are absolutely opposed to EPA even considering altering the 208 plan to give Pataskala some overreaching stretch of duplicate service area. We're going to aggressively oppose that."