LIMA — A change-up of who’s in charge of county water services is expected to give rural residents some fiscal protection against costly repairs by slightly increasing water bills.
Last week, Allen County Commissioners voted to allow the Allen Water District to handle the county’s water customers, thereby shifting roughly 9,000 households to be under the purview of the district.
The change also comes with a $2 monthly additional fee for standard residential households that are affected by the move.
Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said 85% of the fund collected will be set aside for future repairs of water infrastructure when a problem occurs. Previously, without such a fee, the county would have had to find the dollars when water infrastructure had broken, which was sometimes charged to homeowners who required the fix.
With the fee in place, the Allen Water District can now better prepare for eventual breaks and spread out the cost of aging infrastructure to more households, District Manager Kimberly Stiles said.
Current Allen Water District customers — roughly 4,000 households — already pay the fee.
“The impetus of this was for our current customers and being proactive as it relates to degradation to the infrastructure that we know is going to happen,” Noonan said.
The $2 fee, however, may change in future years. Worked into the agreement between the two entities is an annual review of the district’s rates. Since county water infrastructure is on average older than the water district’s, rates may be updated down the line depending on need.
“I think the biggest goal of this is to prevent drastic spikes in rate increases,” Stiles said. “If the county doesn’t prepare and start to set a small amount aside, at some point, they’ll have to pay for it. It’s kind of preparing now for the future so they don’t have to add a substantial fee on the bill.”
As part of the agreement, the county will also have more representation on the district’s board of trustees. Currently, the county only has a single representative on the board. With the new changes, Allen County commissioners will be able to select four of the board’s nine members.
The rest of the board is comprised of representatives picked by the four townships surrounding Lima — Bath, Shawnee, American and Perry — and one at-large member selected by the board itself.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.