Sunday September 6, 2015 8:51 PM
Members of the Johnstown-Monroe Local School District Board of Education and Johnstown Village Council members were at odds over water and sewer fees at the regularly scheduled Village Council meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 1.
The lively discussion centered around water and sewer tap fees and capacity charges relative to the school building construction project.
The Johnstown-Monroe Oversight Committee presented Village Council with a proposal that the district’s current proposed water and sewer capacity and tap fees be reduced by 85 percent.
The district representatives’ Powerpoint presentation showed the current proposed tap and capacity fees were far beyond the usual average rate of anywhere from $0 to $150,000, according to a survey of 177 buildings from theOhio Schools Facility Commission.
The school district explained to the village council that the project is 29 percent funded by the state and they would, essentially, be replacing water fixtures, not adding new fixtures.
Johnstown Superintendent Dale Dickson stated the district currently pays $23,315 in water/sewer usage fees.
Discussions about the water and sewer tap fees and capacity charges began in January, according to Tim Swauger, vice president of the Johnstown School Board.
In the middle of the district’s presentation, Johnstown Village Manager Jim Lenner said the school district was using incorrect numbers when calculating the capacity and tap fees.
However, even with the revised dollar figures, the district representatives stood by their request to have an 85-percent reduction of the total figure.
“It’s still above our budget, but we’re trying to compromise,” Swauger said.
“We’d love for that number to be zero. We need to figure out this number so we can finalize our budget and move forward.”
School Board President Ruth Ann Booher emphasized the district and village have a symbiotic relationship and district officials requested a decision as soon as possible.
“I pray you will consider this issue as soon as possible,” Booher said.
“Every day we do not put a shovel to the ground, we hear about it in the school district,” she said.
“We will do whatever it takes to work with you.”
Johnstown Mayor Sean Staneart said, legally, the council could not make any decision at that moment because a formal ordinance had not been submitted.
“Right now our hands are tied, but we are not trying to hold up your construction,” Staneart said.
“We want openness, not accusations,” he said.
Lenner said he wished there was a way to just give away the services.
“But whatever we give away, will have to be made up elsewhere,” he said.
“We could potentially have to increase resident’s water and sewer rates if we give away too much right now.”
Lenner emphasized it is a huge decision with big impacts that will not be taken lightly.
Staneart asserted the council is supportive of the school district, but it has an obligation to village residents.
“If we decide to do some kind of waiver for the district, the residents might have to bear some of that cost,” Staneart said.
“We have to be stewards of the residents’ money and we take that seriously,” he said.
“We want to give the district as much as we can, but we need to respect our residents.”
Village Council President Sharon Hendren said she wants what is best for the children, but someone has to pay for the schools.
“We all want this school, but somewhere we have to come up with the money,” she said.
Before discussions began, resident Marvin Block stated that 20 to 25 years ago the community used to be split
“I don’t want to see that happen again,” Block.
“We all represent the village and want what’s best,” he said. “I beg you to keep the peace and listen to everyone with an open mind.”
A special Johnstown Village Council meeting to continue discussions has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in council chambers, 599 South Main St.
The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 15.