Sanitary districts were formed on their own
By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 1, 2013 1:50 AM
Sanitary districts were authorized by a state law that dates back to the 1920s. However, Wayne County's first district, Southern Wayne, wasn't formed until May 1976.
Fork Township Sanitary District was the second in September 1986.
They were followed by Southeastern Wayne in August 1988, Belfast-Patetown and Eastern Wayne in December 1988 and Southwestern Wayne and Northwestern Wayne in November 1990.
Those five districts form the Wayne Water Districts that sends out a combined 20,000 bills monthly and that has 1,000 miles of water lines.
Fork (4,600 monthly bills) and Southern Wayne (2,700 monthly bills) are not part of the Wayne Water Districts.
"The county was actually asked if they would do the water system," Wayne Water Districts Manager Steve Hamilton said. "The county wasn't interested in doing a water system. It originally started with Belfast, Northeast and Southeastern.
"There were public meetings, normally held at fire departments or churches and schools in each one these areas, asking people, 'If you are interested in water service, come in and sign up for service.'"
Supporters also went door to door asking people to sign up, he said.
An engineer took the sign-ups, plotted them on a map, and developed a project to serve as many people as possible, Hamilton said.
"That became the original district," he said. "They felt like it was a good idea to be, in essence, a cooperative and share administrative costs. Northwestern and Southwestern joined later."
There have been several annexations since the initial district lines were drawn, he said.
The people who joined signed what was basically a contract in which, for a reduced tap fee of $75, they agreed to pay a minimum bill for the next two years, Hamilton said.
Under state law, a sanitary district board is a "body politic and corporate" meaning it has authority and powers similar to a municipality, including levying property taxes.
It also can:
* Acquire either by purchase, condemnation or otherwise and hold real and personal property, easements, rights of way and water rights in the name of the district within or without the corporate limits of the district, necessary or convenient for the construction or maintenance of the works of the district
* Collect and dispose of garbage, waste and other refuse by contract or otherwise
* Establish a fire department, or contract for firefighting apparatus and personnel
* Provide or contract for rescue service, ambulance service, rescue squad or other emergency medical services.
Sanitary districts also enjoy privileges and immunities granted to other governmental units.
The law also provides ways that areas can join a district.
A petition signed by no less than 15 percent of the property owners within any area contiguous to, and adjoining the district, may be presented to the sanitary district board requesting annexation.
A public hearing and vote are required.
If a petition is signed by no less than 51 percent of the property owners within the area proposed to be annexed, a public hearing is required, but not a vote.
If all of the property owners within the area sign the petition, neither the public hearing nor the vote are required.