Village begins planning for new plant

COVINGTON — The village of Covington will host an open house on Monday, Feb. 6, to answer questions and seek public input on the subject of a new wastewater treatment facility and sewer rate increases needed to pay for the project.

“The goal is to help people understand where we’re at,” Village Administrator Kyle Hinkelman said during the Village Council meeting Monday night. “We’re at the position where we have to build a wastewater facility.”

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is very close to mandating it gets replaced,” he said of the current facility, which is approximately 45 years old.

The open house will be held at the Covington Government Center on South High Street from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., before village council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting for February. Council members discussed the open house, and the village’s plan for building a new facility, during their meeting held on Monday, Jan. 23.

“Currently, the engineer’s estimate is $18 million,” Hinkelman said of the cost for a new facility to be built.

“The village has been saving funds for the last seven years, and building up a reserve,” he said. “That will allow us to reduce the amount of rate increase that is necessary to cover the cost of this.”

The state of Ohio will cover $4 million of the new facility’s cost through loan forgiveness, and the village has approximately $1 million in the sewer fund that will also go towards the project. The remaining costs will be covered by a 30-year loan that the village will repay at a rate of $500,000 per year.

Village sewer rates will be increased to pay for construction of the new facility. Sewer rates will increase by 10% for the first two years of the project, then return to the usual 3% rate for annual increases after that.

“A 10% increase is painful,” Hinkelman said. “But it is going to give us a long-term solution.”

“You’re getting two years of unfortunate raises, to allow us to stick to that 3% and never change it,” he said.

The city of Piqua conducts an annual survey, comparing water and sewer rates for 67 local communities. According to that study Covington’s current rates are below many other local communities, Hinkelman said.

“The village of Covington’s sewer rates are in the bottom quarter,” he said. “The rates that we have are not as high as other communities.”

Trash collection and water rates are also due for an annual 3% increase. Council members tabled two ordinances to adjust water, sewer and trash fees until after construction estimates for the water treatment facility project are returned in March.

In other business, council members also passed an ordinance to transfer funds allocated in the 2023 budget, and discussed several projects including schoolhouse park and the government center design.

“We do have three projects currently out for bid,” Hinkelman said. “There are a lot of things going on in the village right now.”

Council members also heard an update on an approximately $5 million paving project planned for U.S Route 36 in 2026 or 2027.

“We will receive $3 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to help pave the section from Pearl Street to the western edge of U.S. Route 36,” Hinkelman said. “We beat out some much larger communities for that.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, local resident Mike Kendig asked council for increased enforcement of speed and noise violations from vehicles in the village, and discussed the status of signs that have been ordered to encourage safe driving.

“As of now they’ve been purchased,” Hinkelman said of the signs. “I don’t know the date that they will be delivered.”

Kendig also asked about the progress of efforts to reduce speed limits in certain areas of the village.

“We have to work with ODOT, because we can’t just decide to lower the speed limit,” Hinkelman said. “We’re working on that to the best of our ability, but it is not a fast process.”

“That’s why we moved forward with the signage,” he said.

Village council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6. The water treatment facility open house will also be held on Monday, Feb. 6, from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.