Sheila McLaughlin reports:
With water rates among the highest in the state and prices continuing to rise, Butler County commissioners are looking at building a county-owned water plant to keep rates under control.
Documents obtained by The Enquirer under a public records request indicate that constructing the plant with a price tag of up to $100 million now ranks first in the county’s list of options after a deal fell through to buy Hamilton’s south water treatment plant for up to $70 million. The county’s water system serves about a tenth of the county’s population; and expansion would be paid for by the users.
“We can build a new plant and still have a cheaper rate for our customers, cheaper than if we just stay with the City of Hamilton’s rates as they move forward. Obviously that’s a no-brainer,” Commissioner Don Dixon said.
“What’s killing us is the water rate continues to increase. It hurts our economic development and it’s killing our residents. The fact is we have to do something now or our rate is not sustainable.”
Chris Wunnenberg, a West Chester resident for more than three decades, has seen first-hand what the water rates are doing to manufacturers looking for a place to land a new plant. He’s development director for Schumacher Dugan Construction based in West Chester.
A water cost survey by the City of Oakwood, Ohio, showed Butler County was on the high side, ranking 21st most expensive of 66 Ohio governmental water suppliers in the survey.
“When we supply utility rates as part of the search criteria, we never get a call back,” he said. “It’s more than how much money it costs me to water my lawn or run the washing machine or showers in my house. It also costs us opportunity.”