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Company wants to buy Willard's water plant

Zoe Greszler • Jan 21, 2019 at 9:00 PM

WILLARD — Will Willard outsource its water plant management? City council members will consider that idea when listening to Aqua Ohio’s proposal to purchase the plant.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, a hour and a half before council’s regularly scheduled meeting, members will hear an alternative to providing the necessary improvements to the city’s water plant. 

Aqua Ohio currently manages plants throughout the state, including those in Ashtabula, Tiffin, Marion, Stark and others. 

Notably, though, Willard City Manager Jim Ludban said “the water plant is not for sale.” He said listening to the proposal doesn’t mean council will agree to it or that it necessarily wants to outsource utility management.

“We’re looking at making some water plant improvements and all we’re doing is doing our due diligence and looking into all of the options,” Ludban said. “It’s doing our due diligence to at least look at outsourcing the water plant to see if it would be more cost effective, but that doesn’t mean it’s for sale.”

Ludban said this meeting will give council the opportunity to hear the proposal, ask questions and “either say ‘yes let’s do an assessment’” or continue to look into providing the needed improvements and future management.

“We just want to make sure what we do is the best option and to make sure what we’re doing is right and best for the city,” he said. “It’s not for sale. This is just part of the due diligence process. We’ve reached out to Aqua and they (manage the plant in) Tiffin and Tiffin is very satisfied. So we thought this would be a good option to listen to.”

Council vice president Michael Elmlinger said he doesn’t want to outsource the utility. He has prior engagements that will keep him from Tuesday night’s 45-minute-plus proposal meeting.

“Personally I’m not in favor of it at all, but we’ll listen,” Elmlinger said. 

“I don’t think we should lose control of own water plants. They’d be in charge of the rates and everything; at least that’s my understanding of the proposal. I’d like to ask these questions and that’s why I wish I wasn’t missing the meeting. Our city manager kicked it around and bought it to our attention as something we should consider, so we’re going to listen to them and they’ll answer all those types of questions at the proposal meeting.”

Elmlinger said Willard currently manages and owns its own sewer and water plant, but sold the light power plant years ago.

“I just don’t like the idea of losing control of our facilities like that, but I’m just one voice out of seven,” he said.

Other council members could not be reached for comment Monday.

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