The Prairie Township Board of Trustees is concerned some residents may face a rate increase for their water service, a potential financial burden for many.

The Prairie Township Board of Trustees is concerned some residents may face a rate increase for their water service, a potential financial burden for many.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, trustees approved a letter of concerns to be sent to PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) in an effort to dispute a water rate increase from Ohio American Water to its residents in the Lake Darby Estates subdivision.

In a Sept. 4 report, Ohio American Water recommends a 30.37 percent increase for water and a 36.94 percent increase for sewer in the Lake Darby Service area. The resulting costs to residents would equate to a $30 monthly increase, with the typical bill averaging about $105 per month.

"With this increase, residents would be paying double to what the other residents in the township are paying," trustee Steve Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the board fears that some of the more modest neighborhoods in the service area will be compromised in terms of their real estate values. What makes the matter worse is that residents who conserve water either out of cost or conservation issues are being penalized, he said.

A decrease in water results in decreased volume of usage, which has a negative impact on the efficiency of the plant and that allows Ohio American Water another way to argue for a rate increase, Kennedy said.

"There are two issues; water quality and the cost," Kennedy said.

In response to the water quality issue, Ohio American Water was allowed to conduct its own testing of the water under its own set of conditions.

"No one checked up on them and PUCO allowed them to test on their own," he said. "The tests were done by their (Ohio American Water) people in their lab. There is no accountability."

However, when Kennedy paid to conduct tests of his own, the results were much different, he said.

"In the beginning, it was way out of range," Kennedy said. "I went out at various times of the day and started to turn those results in to PUCO."

Kennedy said he soon found himself in the same predicament as Ohio American Water. PUCO didn't like his method of testing and there was no accountability on his end, either.

"I got an individual lab to do the job and then turned in the results to PUCO," he said.

Kennedy said Ohio American Water is supposed to be fined $1,000 for not staying within a certain range of water quality. After the independent lab results were in, Ohio American Water should have been penalized for the month of December 2007 along with January, July and Aug of this year, he said.

What the board of trustees is asking PUCO to do is to consider alternatives to approving a rate increase. The board said those alternatives should consider the long-term future of both the water and sewer utility and the community that supports it.

"It will be up to the commissioners on whether or not this case moves forward," Kennedy said.