MIDDLEPORT — A lively open discussion on the pros and cons of Middleport taking over the operation of the Rutland water-sewer system under a contract with the Meigs County Commissioners was held during Monday night’s meeting of Middleport Village Council.
The tentative plan, yet to be approved, is for Middleport to assume all operations and maintenance responsibilities, as well as handle all administrative duties including billing and accounting for the entire system, with all bills being paid by the Commissioners.
In exchange the Commissioners will not only pay all expenses involved, including the salary for two new employees, any overtime work done by Middleport employees, and any related expenses such as rental of needed equipment for work on the system, but will pay a fee to Middleport of approximately $1,421 per month or $17,058 a year for handling all of the operational and administrative duties required to keep the Rutland water-sewer system functioning. As for current debt on the system, that is the responsibility of the Meigs County Commissioners who just recently took over the system which was in default.
According to a proposed contract not yet approved by either the Commissioners nor Middleport Village Council, the responsibilities of both parties, along with rates which the village will charge for labor, materials and fringe benefit, as well as an hourly rate for the rental use of Middleport equipment, is detailed. It specifies that all work will be done under the supervision of the Village of Middleport or persons designated by the village.
Douglas Dixon of Middleport raised several issues regarding the involvement of Middleport in the operation of a sewer-water system outside the village, the probable rate increase to Rutland residents who he said already have trouble paying their bills, and questions about using Middleport village employees to run the system. It was pointed out that the plan call for hiring two full time employees to work only at Rutland with the work to be done under the supervision of Faymon Roberts, Middleport village administrator, who will be paid for any work on the Rutland system by the Meigs County Commissioners.
Questions were also raised related to Middleport’s opportunity to opt out should taking over the system prove to be too much work or not financially beneficial to Middleport Village. Any contract with the Commissioners, according to the Susan Baker, financial officer, will have a provision which will allow the village to opt out if it proves not to be profitable for the village.
“We’re not doing this out of the goodness of our heart,” Baker said. “It has to be profitable for the village.”
While there were some questions asked by Council members, and no vote was taken, there seemed to be a majority of consensus to move forward. Council member, Rae Moore said she saw “no risk at all” adding that, “if it doesn’t work out we don’t lose anything, we can get out.” Baker said that the contract will be reviewed every three or six months to see how things are going along and “if it isn’t working out, we can get out.” She also pointed out that the anticipated revenue is about what a one-mill levy would generate in a year.
“This is an opportunity to bring in revenue,” Baker said, as additional questions were raised by Dixon and a couple of others attending the meeting.
Meigs County Commissioner Tim Ihle was present at the meeting and said that the Commissioners are in a position where they have to come up with a solution to the problem of Rutland’s water-sewer system. He said it appears Rutland residents “will have to pay a little bit more, but not much.”
Currently, according to Ihle, a contract is being prepared by the county’s attorneys and once completed will be presented to Middleport Village Council for consideration.
Once the proposed contract is completed, the Commissioners and Middleport Village officials will again meet to discuss the next step.
At the conclusion of the open discussion, village officials went into executive session with Mick Barr, village solicitor, to further discuss ramifications of the proposal.
Mayor Mike Gerlach and all six Council members, Craig Wehrung, Sandy Brown, Rae Moore, Roger Manley, Emerson Heighton and Penny Burge were present along with the village administrator, Faymon Roberts, and financial officer Baker.