MIDDLEPORT — The need for negotiations with the Meigs County Commissioners on financial terms if Middleport Village is to take over operating the Rutland water-sewer system, now owned by the county, was discussed at length during Monday night’s meeting of Middleport Village Council.
While the general consensus of Council members seemed to be that if it is beneficial to Middleport and not harmful in any way, then, as put by Councilman Emerson Heighton, it may be “a win-win situation” for both Council and the Commissioners which recently took over the faltering operation.
The end result of the meeting of village officials with the Commissioners Tim Ihle and Mike Bartrum, village solicitor, Michael Barr, Meigs County Prosecutor Colleen Williams and the assistant prosecutor, Amanda Bizub-Franzmann, and two EPA waste-water representatives, was the scheduling of a meeting for further discussion at 11 a.m. Thursday morning in the Commissioners office.
At that time Middleport Mayor Mike Gerlach, Financial Officer Susan Baker, and Village Administrator Faymon Roberts, will present a proposal on projected costs for repair and operational work along with administrative requirements and other related costs of operating the water-sewer system for review by everyone as a first step toward coming to some sort of an agreement on whether or not to proceed.
Mayor Gerlach stressed at the meeting that nothing can be done without approval of the full Council, that no agreement will be signed without adequate protection for Middleport village and its residents, that there is assurance of timely payment for service from the Commissioners, and that there is room for change or an “out” should the village find it isn’t working.
Baker stressed the need to “weigh everything, determine the cost to us, and be assured of a quick turn-around on the money.” As pointed out by Councilman Craig Wehrung “we have to move cautiously once we learn more about it.” Council was in accord that “no vote be taken, and no contract be signed” until all the facts and figures are available. Councilman Roger Manley asked “What does Middleport have to gain?” Again the mayor stressed that anything done has to come “with assurance that it benefits Middleport.”
Speaking on behalf of the Commissioners, Ihle said Middleport is a “perfect fit,” that while they are looking for a long-term solutions, they know there are lots of questions and that it is going to be a “trial and error” solution, but that they need to get the system running again. “If you’re willing to work for us, we’ll take care of you and together we can solve this problem. You have the knowledge to handle things. We don’t. We’ll see that Middleport profits from the work they do,” said Ihle.
Bartrum said the county just needs to break even the Rutland sewer-water system, that unless something happens soon more bad things are going to happen, and that as far as he sees, “we’re (Middleport and Commissioners) are on the same page” for taking care of the Rutland water-sewer system.
One of the EPA representatives’ emphasis was on getting the system in compliance. She said Rutland residents will have to pay for service (apparently some have quit paying their bills) and that they view fixing the problems a three to five year process.
Both the Commissioners and Gerlach, Baker and Roberts were in accordance that the residents will have to pay for what it costs to operate the system.
While a proposed agreement will be presented by Middleport officials to the Commissioners Thursday morning,, no action will be taken at that meeting. Any decision made will come from Council, perhaps as early as at the rescheduled second regular meeting of the month, 7 p.m. Monday.