As to the announcement by the Putnam County commissioners that they now again want out of the sewer and water business, I have some comments, as we have heard this before.
Between 2012 and 2016, the then-commissioners put forth a joint effort — I say joint effort, as it took more than one commissioner — to form a 6119 sewer and water district. They applied for two grants at that time, one to study the possibility of the need for a 6119 in the county and one for the possible formation of said 6119.
After accepting these grant monies, Bowling Bowling Green State University did the study and recommended that a 6119 be formed in the county. An attorney was contracted through the county, using the second grant, to help for the 6119.
After all of this, one would think that the then-commissioners were committed to this effort. One of the then-commissioners then came out and said he was never in favor for the 6119 and even wrote a letter to the editor against it. One other still now-commissioner after all the organizational and public meetings decided to change his mind about the 6119. This made it 2-to-1 against, and the then-commissioners dropped out of the 6119,
With the county commissioners withdrawing out of the 6119, the effort to form a 6119 fell apart. In the end, it ended up being a total waste of $200,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
The other now-commissioner came up to me and one other board member at one of the first organizational meetings and said what a great idea this was, and the county really needed this. He then got himself on to organizational board and the committee to write the bylaws, which was done at his business. At the time he decided to run for commissioner, he resigned from the board and turned against the 6119, which he worked very hard to bring down. He also made the statement at one of the last meetings in a room full of people that the county had a 6117 and didn’t need a 6119. It was found out later that he was basically against the 6119 from the beginning.
What this comes down to is that these two now-commissioners made a conscious decision to opt out of the 6119 and retain the 6117. This puts the commissioners in the sewer and water business, like it or not. It’s what they wanted; it’s what they got.
Also, with them wanting out of the sewer and water business, does this mean that the county will no longer have a sewer and water authority? Is it not the job of the county commissioners to promote economic development in the county and isn’t the availability of sewer and water part of that? If you think the availability of sewer and water has no impact on economic development, just look at the towns and villages in Putnam County that have these services available to them, compared to those that don’t.
With Toledo passing the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the EPA requirement to reduce nitrides and phosphates going into Lake Erie, new regulations will likely be put into place. These new regulations will call for reductions of run-off and what can be discharged to streams and rivers. With the requirement of a 40% reduction set by the EPA of nitrides and phosphates going into Lake Elie by 2025, I feel this is not the time for our county to get out of the sewer and water business. We need a local authority that is more than willing to work for the residents of this county.
I say more than willing, as this has not been the case in the past.
In early 2018, a group of my neighbors, myself included, decided that there was enough interest in the neighborhood to look into a sewer line out of Ottawa up state Route 15 and parts of I-9. We contacted an engineering firm to get a rough draft of the project, along with a rough estimate of cost. After several meetings with Ottawa officials, they agreed to go along with the project. Because we planed to do this under a 6112 private line, it was required to go through the commissioners’ office.
The first of two meetings did not go too well, so a second meeting was set, this time with a representative from the engineering firm and two officials from Ottawa. Details of the project were presented to the commissioners.
Only one of the Commissioners, who is no longer in office, was willing to work with us. The above-mentioned two commissioners wanted nothing to do with the project, and we got no cooperation from them. They said they were not in favor of any new sewer lines in the county, and they wanted out of the sewer and water business.
After this meeting, the commissioner’s office contacted one of the people at this second meeting, requesting the names and addresses of the stakeholders for this project. They were informed that we would give them this information with the condition that they not contact them until after we had a chance to first meet with the stakeholders ourselves to present the project to them.
Before we could hold this meeting, a biased, poison pen letter was sent out of the commissioners’ office, along with their own survey. How much this letter influenced everyone is hard to tell, but when people showed up for our meeting, it seemed like a lot of them had their minds made up, and the project fell apart.
I feel that these two commissioners are not serving the residents of this county with this attitude. If they truly want out of the sewer and water business, then my advice to them is either renew the effort to form a 6119 or join the Northwest District out of Bowling Green. The towns, villages and rural residents of Putnam County deserve better.
Michael W. Siefker is a former member of the committee to form a 6119 in Putnam County.