The Highland County Board of Commissioners, Village of Mowrystown officials and the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are slated to meet Friday to discuss ongoing issues with the Mowrystown’s wastewater treatment system, the board discussed during its regular meeting Wednesday.
In an email dated April 19, Bryce Miner, a legislative aide for Ohio’s 91st House District, invited the following officials to the meeting, which will be held 11 a.m. Friday, April 27 at Mowrystown Village Hall:
• Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler.
• Ohio EPA Legislative Liaison Michael Guastella.
• Commissioners Shane Wilkin, Terry Britton and Jeff Duncan.
• Mowrystown Mayor Frank Terwilliger.
• Mowrystown Fiscal Officer Jill Stolz.
• Mowrystown Village Solicitor Fred Beery.
• Hillsboro Public Works Superintendent Shawn Adkins.
• Highland County Water Inc. General Manager Hattie Lovedahl.
According to Brad Miller, a spokesman for the Ohio House Republican Caucus, the meeting was coordinated by the Speaker of the House’s office and the Ohio EPA to facilitate discussion between interested parties.
Miller said the meeting has been in the works since January, and is designed to “bring those folks together so they can identify what other resources can be made available.”
Meanwhile, Beery told The Times-Gazette Wednesday afternoon that Terwilliger will leave his post as mayor at the end of the month.
According to Beery, Terwilliger is resigning due to health and family circumstances, and will be replaced by Mowrystown Village Council President Steve Sheeley.
Beery said Terwilliger will “be really missed,” adding that “he’s worked very hard, especially on (the sewer issue).”
Terwilliger did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.
As previously reported, Mowrystown’s sewer system and wastewater treatment plant have been a source of fiscal stress for both the village and Highland County for more than a decade.
According to information provided by the commissioners’ office, the county took out a loan of more than $2 million about 14 years ago to pay for the treatment plant’s construction, and since then, Mowrystown has been struggling to keep up with paying the county back.
One of the main reasons is delinquent sewer payments from residents, some of whom have not made payments for years, according to Beery.
In a November 2017 letter, Beery told commissioners that Mowrystown Village Council took emergency action to raise sewer rates by 30 percent in an effort to pay off the debt and make needed repairs.
Council also approved a “more aggressive collection process,” Beery said in the letter.
Beery told The Times-Gazette that some residents who were delinquent in their bills were given notice that if they did not pay up, the village would dig up their sewer lines and cap them, likely causing the county health department to slap them with a violation.
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner spoke out against the decision in December of last year, saying while he understood Mowrystown’s financial dilemma, he felt like the village used the health department as leverage to collect bills.
“We’re definitely not in favor of their plan and we’ve told them as much,” he said, citing concerns about creating unnecessary nuisances.
Beery told The Times-Gazette on Wednesday that no sewers have been dug up or capped because the village “put the program on hold,” after residents paid nearly $20,000 in delinquent bills.
“That was almost enough to pay for the amount of an advance they took out to cover their bills a couple months ago,” Beery said of the village. “People stepped up and paid a lot of their bills and charges. Hopefully that will keep happening.”
Beery said he is unable to attend the upcoming meeting because he will be out of town, but added that he believes the issue can be resolved.
“If they think outside the box, I think there’s a resolution here,” he said.
Duncan said Wednesday that Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley will also attend the meeting.
“To be honest, we don’t know what to anticipate,” Duncan said. “They’ve called a meeting and we’re going to find out what everybody’s thinking.”
In other business Wednesday, the commissioners awarded the county’s 2018 Recycling and Litter Prevention Grant to the Village of Greenfield, approved a motion to take ownership of a portion of sewer in a developing subdivision near Rocky Fork Lake, and approved routine financial resolutions.
After the meeting, the board met in executive session with Judge Rocky Coss to discuss personnel. No action was taken.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.