The Highland County Water Company, Inc. Board of Directors and management addressed what they described as “unresolved issues” for both customers and the communities in their service area.
The news release detailed the company’s strategy to move forward in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and addressed four main elements:
• Weathering the economic downtown without government assistance — Highland County Water Company (HCWC) management said it was “pleased to report that the company had not had to apply for a Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, or any other assistance from state and federal sources.” The company attributed its success to leadership from both the board of directors and its management team. The release stated that HCWC’s management had been trained to make the best practice plans and judgment calls for the system, which it described as having “unique costs and challenges with other regional, municipal, private or non-profit water systems.”
• Service disconnections — Seeking to dispel rumors of impending service disconnections due to non-payment, HCWC expressed a willingness to work with customers who had fallen behind on payments “particularly during these challenging times.” Though the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had allowed for the resumption of service disconnections due to non-payment on July 10, the news release stated that, “We do not plan to proceed with such disconnections without notification, and an opportunity for payment arrangements to be made.” A proposal for resuming disconnections for non-payment is available for review online at highlandcountywater.com, the release said, and would be presented for approval at its board of directors meeting now scheduled for Monday.
• Safely scheduling HCWC’s annual meeting — Originally scheduled for April 9, the meeting was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Mike DeWine’s restrictions on group gatherings. In the news release, the company said it planned to work with local health officials to seek guidance and recommendations on rescheduling the annual meeting safely, while at the same time affording members the opportunity to voice their opinions and take part in company decisions.
• Ongoing labor negotiations — As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, the company is involved in contract negotiations with the Utility Workers Union of America Local 477-W, which represents 13 water company employees. National union representatives have been urging members of the utility to join its, “Members Committee for a Better Highland County Water Co.” to establish what it describes as more accountability from the company’s management to its members. A pair of by-law proposals have been advocated by the group that, in its opinion, would make running for the board of directors positions easier for members. In the company’s news release, it countered by saying that input and guidance from members is always welcome, but said the union was attempting to disrupt HCWC and undermine the current management and board of directors. Negotiations at present are stalled, according to the release, due to the union’s refusal to meet with the company this year.
“Public participation and comments are encouraged at regular meetings of the Highland County Water Company Board of Directors, which meets on the third Monday of every month at the company offices at 8:30 a.m.,” general manager Hattie Lovedahl said. “The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 20 in our Hillsboro office.”
The Highland County Water Company is a private, non-profit water utility serving, at last count, nearly 11,600 members across parts of Highland, Adams, Brown, Clinton and Ross counties.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.