Thursday, June 22, 2006


DCRSD Gets Taxpayer Financing for Sewers

At the 21 June 2006 County Council meeting 2.5 hours of discussion resulted in a negotiated deal to get money for DCRSD to “get into the game.” Cost to the taxpayers could be $4.5 million. DCRSD plans to use the $4.5 million to leverage more money at the Lawrenceburg bond bank. Council thinks the set-aside account would show good faith for DCRSD to negotiate with SDRSD and St. Leon Sewer Board.

The vote was 4 to 2. Fehrman, as chair, wasn’t required to vote, though he was clearly supportive. Fehrman left the room and talked to various supporters in the hall and around the room as the discussion was going on. Nay votes came from Cheek and Lansing due to unresolved issues with Greendale. There was also a desire to wait till August to see the sewer Study master plan.

The bulk of the discussion centered on membership in SDRSD, which is threatened by a nay vote from Greendale should DCRSD not agree to Greendale’s agreement to be able to serve 4 subdivisions that they’d planned on serving and to allow Greendale to keep HVL, a current customer. This resulted from DCRSD taking over “all areas not currently served.”

Economic development issues were also discussed. Jim West, Bill Ritzman, John Rahe, Richard Butler, and Mike Rozow represented DCEDI, the Redevelopment Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce. Mike Hankins, Brett Fehrman, and Rodney Dennerline represented DCRSD.

Hankins referred to SDRSD’s governance as being “antiquated” more than once in his presentation, because it requires a unanimous vote for a member to join. From the outside that may appear to be the case. Inside the SDRSD, it protects their initial investments, customer rates, and expansion from members unable to carry their share of the load.

DCRSD is a relative neophyte in the sewer business. They have yet to build a firm foundation. They elected to hurry up and take over all areas not currently served by sewers in November 2005. This occurred at a Commissioners meeting without being on the agenda. The wording for the commissioners to use was provided by DCRSD’s attorney, Lisa Lehner. At a recent meeting of commissioners, Lehner submitted an amendment to the minutes of the November meeting to show discussion on the issue to reflect it being done for health and safety of the residents.

In their hurry DCRSD failed to consult the local cities and towns to see what their utility plans were. Greendale, for example, had a plan because developers had requested service. They laid pipes for a gravity system along SR1 also. Gravity systems are expensive to lay out, but are cheaper to maintain. DCRSD should have consulted them before essentially negating their investment.

What about expansion of the cities themselves? How can they annex areas served by the county? Has anyone thought about who owns the pipes and who gets to bill the customers then?

The DCRSD letter to Council notes: “At present, County residents outside municipal jurisdictions are serviced by a municipal service provider, often at a higher cost than local residents pay. We would attempt to reduce that inequity.” DCRSD surely has noticed that taxes paid by residents in the local cities are higher than those in the county outside. The city residents get a reduced rate partially due to their taxes and the economies of scale along with their high density of living. DCRSD will find that providing sewer service and maintaining lines is costly. Someone has to pay. It may truly be more efficient and less expensive to add on to the cities rather than duplicate services.

If you look at the county as a whole, there are very few areas that couldn’t be served by EXISTING sewer providers in Aurora, Dillsboro, Lawrenceburg, Greendale, LMH, Moore’s Hill, and St. Leon. Most areas remaining are rural or farms. DCRSD needs to widen the circle around the towns to allow them some breathing space and potential expansion room.

Greendale has made DCRSD an offer that sounds beneficial to both. It lets Greendale recoup their investment in lines that will serve 4 subdivisions and retain existing customer- VRUC. It lets DCRSD get capacity from Greendale for free and possibly tack on a surcharge to the new development customers to help pay for county uses beyond this area or help Aurora so the county can pass through them, or fix High Ridge Estates, or buy capacity at St. Leon for the county’s TIF.

Goals of the DCRSD are 1. to maintain health and safety of residents, 2. to serve economic development areas, and 3 to serve residential growth – in that order. Yet we see the biggest hassle being over eastern residential growth and Greendale serving it.

DCRSD had no problem with allowing LMH to serve Maxwell’s proposed subdivision on Sneakville Road. What is the difference between that and Greendale serving the subdivisions they had planned to serve?

Hankins noted they were getting variances with IDEM to allow more inflow to Aurora even though Aurora is in violation with IDEM. He asked: What’s the difference if HighRidge Estates overflows there or in Aurora? Could the difference be that AURORA PAYS PENALTIES when this occurs?

Why is the little town of Guilford a big issue? Is it because of what’s above Guilford?
Similarly, why are we concerned with New Alsace at this point?

It seems that economics is the driver and no one is paying attention to how the county can biologically and scientifically devise a plan that will take us into the future- responsibly.

DCRSD states in their letter to Council that:”Since its establishment, the board of DCRSD has spent its initial period getting its arms around the sewer issue in Dearborn County.” We need to be sure those arms don’t strangle our neighbors in the cities and towns.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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