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Heltzel opposes plan in Kinsman



Published: Wed, August 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A free treatment plant could come with a high price, the commissioner said.

By ED RUNYAN

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- One Trumbull County commissioner says he will vote against a plan to buy a waste treatment plant in Kinsman Township for $1 -- to avoid getting dumped on down the road.

Commissioner Paul Heltzel said acquiring the former Kraft Foods treatment plant from the Ashtabula Growth Partnership could leave the county with a facility that might never be used and instead cost a lot of money to shut down.

"I've got a real problem with that project," Heltzel said Tuesday.

The Kraft factory had turned milk into yogurt, cottage cheese and other products, employing about 60 people until ceasing operations last year. One concern is that the entire Kraft property, which includes the $3 million treatment plant, recently changed hands to the Ashtabula Growth Partnership.

Until that occurred, Kraft was willing to give the treatment plant to the county for $1 -- and also provide the $200,000 in decommissioning money that would be required to clean up the plant if it's not used.

The current owner is not willing to provide the $200,000, county officials said.

Heltzel said this appears to him as a "fleecing" of the county. "It's $200,000 that we lost; let's not lose sight of that," he said.

He also wants more discussion on whether the county could find other ways to bring sewers to the area, or to upgrade septic systems, and what these could cost.

Unclear agenda

It wasn't clear if the proposal would remain on the commissioners' agenda. With Commissioner Daniel Polivka unable to attend today's meeting, the measure would not pass without Heltzel's affirmative vote. At least two commissioners must vote yes for a measure to pass.

Sanitary Engineer Gary Newbrough had planned to ask the commissioners to advertise a public notice for a release of $340,000 from the county's Revolving Loan Fund for the project.

The loan fund dollars would be matched by another $340,000 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration. The county applied for the grant in July. The county wants the grant for 50 percent of the estimated engineering and construction costs.

To get the grant, however, the county needs the ownership title to the plant, Newbrough said.

Heltzel said he believes Kinsman residents may prefer to upgrade their septic systems rather than pay a similar amount for sewer lines. If they choose this, the county could be left with the cost of closing down an unused treatment plant.

Cost calculations

Heltzel and Newbrough calculated that the cost of the sewer project would be in the range of $20,000 per homeowner, compared with about $15,000 to $20,000 for septic upgrades. Newbrough said there are 300 to 400 homes in the area, and many have large front lot footage.

Putting a line in the ground to deliver the waste from homes to the treatment plant would cost about $7 million. The project would include a sanitary sewer along Burnett East Road to state Route 5. Grants may reduce the cost, which would be charged to system users on utility bills.

The Kinsman Township center is one of about two dozen unsewered county places the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants addressed. It filed suit against commissioners as a result of an investigation by the county board of health.

About 23 areas of the county have been declared "health nuisances" by the health board. The EPA's action would force the commissioners to spend taxpayer money to remedy the problem. The potential financial burden to Trumbull County could be about $70 million, according to a newly released state audit of county finances.

The commissioners have filed their own complaint against the health board seeking financial assistance with putting sewers in these areas.

runyan@vindy.com




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