LIMA — Nervous about the ramifications of next week’s vote on the disincorporation of Fort Shawnee, residents have called the Allen County Sanitary Engineer’s Office seeking clarity on the matter.
On Monday, Sanitary Engineer Steve Kayatin attempted to reassure anxious residents that regardless of what happens with the vote little will change with respect to water service.
“We were getting a few calls from people who were concerned and what I had seen on TV and read in the papers was almost the opposite of what I provided at a Village Council meeting. I’ve got to make sure I have the public’s interest, welfare and health looked after,” Kayatin said. “If that means there are concerns and issues I have to make sure those get straightened out. Today’s press conference was to cover pretty much who operates, maintains, owns the lines and to put people’s minds at ease that whatever happens at the village, if they dissolve or stay, it’s business as usual. Things aren’t going to change.”
Fort Shawnee Mayor Pete Mariotti disagreed. Mariotti and some village residents argue things will change if the voters opt to dissolve the village, namely that ownership of the waterline from Lima that serves the village will be taken over by the county.
“It is going to change,” Mariotti said. “This is a way to encourage people to vote to disincorporate the village.”
Ownership is where the village and the county appear at odds. It all dates back to 1991 when the project was pursued. The village and the city of Lima negotiated a contract for the city to provide water to the village. A clause in the contract states that city water will be provided to the village through the waterlines “constructed and owned by the Fort.”
Both sides appear to agree that the city is providing the water to the village and that routine maintenance of the waterlines is the responsibility of the city. Kayatin argues the lines belong to the county, much like the county sewer lines, because the county commissioners were the agency responsible for getting the bond to finance the project. Mariotti argues the village ultimately owns the lines because the residents have paid back the county’s money through assessments.
“The people have paid for those lines for 19 years. We very firmly believe and we have sought legal counsel that says we indeed own these lines,” Mariotti said. “I believe this whole news conference today was about if you vote to dissolve the village the county will own these lines and this contract will become void.”
Kayatin said that’s not the case.
“The commissioners went to bond on these water lines not the village,” Kayatin said. “The key is whose financial status was used to secure these bonds the village or the county commissioners. It was the commissioners that got the interest rates that got the bond, therefore they own these lines.