11/08/05 — Sanitary Districts

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Sanitary Districts

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 8, 2005 1:49 PM

Voters in five sanitary districts will go to the polls today to choose board members to represent them.

But many county residents might not be sure exactly what a sanitary district is.

The districts were created as a way for rural county residents to obtain water and in some cases, sewer, service. By becoming a legal entity, the district can borrow money to dig wells and build tanks and lines. Customers' monthly bills pay back the loan and keep the water flowing.

The first sanitary district created in Wayne was the Southern Wayne district. Fork Township later created its own district. They were followed by the Southeastern Wayne, Eastern Wayne, Southwestern Wayne, Northwestern Wayne and Belfast-Patetown districts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The districts are inter-connected to permit the cross-flow of water, and several work together to simplify billing and bookkeeping. But they manage themselves independently, requiring an elected board for each.

By maintaining their independence, the districts are able to better pursue state and federal grant money, said Eddie Coltrain, who manages Wayne Water Districts, which oversees the operations of several of the districts.

"If the county only had one district, it could only get one grant," Coltrain said. "With five separate, local units of government, the county could go after five times the grants and loans."

Each sanitary district is essentially an independent local government body, created by and protected under state law. Each district board sets its own billing rate and makes its own financial decisions.

As the suppliers of water, the sanitary district commissioners' duties include overseeing contracts for putting in new water lines and keeping the district profitable, Eastern Wayne Commissioner Ernie Schmid said.

As a local unit of government, the board of commissioners are elected to ensure each person within the district is provided clean drinking water at a fair and reasonable price. Henry Braswell, a current Fork Sanitary District board member running for re-election, said that, as a business, it is the responsibility of the district to look out for the best interests of the people. However, that is also a responsibility the people must uphold.

"Everyone that has a tap is a stockholder of the system," Braswell said. "We all share the same water."

Coltrain said he encourages district residents to get out and vote today. Choosing good board members is important to keeping a district in good operating condition, he said.

"Each district has commissioners so the people can question them," he said. "They represent the people in the community."