The Reynoldsburg school district is seeking permission from the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to choose the water and sewer provider for two new schools.

The Reynoldsburg school district is seeking permission from the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to choose the water and sewer provider for two new schools.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said a lawsuit filed Aug. 21 is an attempt by the district to seek "claritory judgment."

He said saving taxpayers money and being able to choose the water and sewer provider for the new schools are the main reasons for the lawsuit. The district plans to construct two new schools on 68.5 acres of land on the east side of Summit Road. The property was annexed by the city of Reynoldsburg about two years ago. A developer wanted it for residential use until the school district purchased it for $2.8-million on Jan. 7, 2008.

A rezoning at the beginning of this year allowed the land to be used for such things as parks, government buildings, schools and churches.

Dackin said the district pursued the lawsuit after it received a letter from the Southwest Licking Community Water & Sewer District that indicated the schools had to obtain water and sewer services from that entity.

"We're asking a judge to make a decision granting us permission to decide who we want to go with," Dackin said.

He said when officials compared the cost of water and sewer service between Reynoldsburg and the Southwest Licking Community Water & Sewer District, they discovered the Southwest Licking fees and rates would cost the schools about $1-million more over time.

"The city has indicated to us they would continue their past practice of waiving tap fees, which is a considerable amount of money," Dackin said.

"We want a judge to come in and say, 'Listen, you have a choice, Reynoldsburg schools. You can go with Southwest Licking if you want or with the city of Reynoldsburg.'

"The action has nothing to do with any relationship issue with either provider," he said. "To me, this is a dollars-and-cents issue and if I can save the tax payer $1-million in fees over time, then I think we have a moral obligation and financial obligation to do that."

District business manager Ron Strussion said at this point, the Southwest Licking Community Water & Sewer District has made no concessions to waive any tap fees for the schools.

He said the city of Reynoldsburg offered to waive half the sewer tap fee, which equates to $162,360, and all of the water tap fee, which equals $93,256.

Strussion said Reynoldsburg's water rate is $4.63 per 1,000 gallons and its sewer rate is $5.75 per 1,000 gallons. The Southwest Licking water rate is $4.70 per 1,000 gallons and the sewer fee is $8.98 per 1,000 gallons.

He said city pipes run across a vacant field across the street from the Summit Road site where the two schools are to be built.

"When we bought that property, the seller put in escrow enough money to run the sewer and water line from those tap points across that property to our site, so putting it in is not the problem," Strussion said.

He said the first thing he asked Southwest Licking was if part of the water and sewer fees could be waived. He said there were no waivers in the water and sewer district's proposal to the schools.

Southwest Licking Community Water & Sewer general manager Don Rector said officials there were surprised by the lawsuit because their water and sewer lines are already there and have been for the past 10 years.

"We requested to have a meeting with them, and the next thing we know is we got sued," Rector said. "We wanted to see if we could come to some resolution. We're open to do that, but any type of adjustment of rates would have to done by our trustees.

"But we wanted to come to the table and make sure we're comparing apples to apples," he said.

Rector said Southwest Licking district officials are evaluating their options at this time and are trying to work with legal counsel to determine what their next step will be.

dowen@thisweeknews.com