ALBION —Wabash Valley Water Commission heard concerns from citizens Thursday about the proposed regional water plant.

Edwards County resident Lenard Stoker told commission members that he is concerned about Albion losing possession of their water wells. Stoker said if feels as if Mount Carmel is getting the best deal out of the proposed project.

Albion resident Richard Knapp agreed,"I'm not sure how it benefits Edwards County."

The concerns are based off the project's plans of the Wabash Valley Water Commission taking control of Albion's water wells. Another concerned addressed was the proposed infrastructure for Mount Carmel in the project.

"It just seems like Mount Carmel is getting more out of this than anyone else," said Stoker.

Justin Dulgar, Mount Carmel Water Commissioner and representative on the water commission, replied," if Mount Carmel has to pay for the piping and storage tanks needed to get the water to their city then it doesn't make sense for them to be a part of the project. Other communities are getting infrastructure as part of this project as well."

Possession of the water wells is an issue commission members are struggling with.

"The preliminary engineering report does not address ownership of the wells and it needs to be addressed," said commission treasurer Dennis Turpin.

Grayville Mayor Joe Bisch was quick to respond, "It's all about who wants to be in control. We have been down this road before and it's a dead end road."

Bisch made his frustration known by saying, "either we move ahead or we don't. Up north they can come together, down here we beat our heads against each other and I don't understand it. This is about having clean water for families in these communities."

Dulgar said it could be added into the contract that Albion can opt to take back control of their wells with proper notice to the water commission. "That is something we can look at," he said.

The clock is ticking for commissioners to get approval from their governing community boards. September is the deadline for the grant application to be turned into the USDA Rural Development Department.

Bisch said now is the time to move forward if the commission can agree to the regional water plant. He said there are more grant funds available now than there has been in years past. "If we are going to do this, we need to get moving forward," he said.

Dulgar told the Mount Carmel City Council on April 23 that Albion had requested a review of the engineering study completed by Lamac Engineering.

“Albion wants the engineering study reviewed, with it being a $20 million project. Officials with Albion have expressed that they don’t like what Lamac has proposed,” explained Dulgar.

Dulgar told the city council members that Albion wants to look at a possible ground water plant that would include a iron and manganese removal package. “Mount Carmel is not interested in going that route. If they decide to do something that is different than what has been presented, then it changes the whole project,” said Dulgar.

Dulgar reiterated that point at Thursday's water commission meeting. "Mount Carmel's plan is to sit back and see what the other communities are going to do." Dulgar said the proposed regional water plant is the only option for Mount Carmel.

Wabash Valley Water Commission, which includes Keensburg, Grayville, Albion and Mount Carmel, was originally presented with several options for improving water treatment plant issues. The commission decided to pursue the regional water plant option, approving the engineering study from Lamac Engineering in March.

The preliminary engineering study estimates the cost of the project at $18.5 million, but after a review from the USDA, it was recommended to increase the operating and maintenance costs, as well as the contingency funds for the project. The revised estimated costs for the regional water plant went to $20.4 million after the USDA review.

The water commission’s next step would be receiving approval from their city governing boards to proceed with the full grant application through the USDA. None of the participating cities have yet given that approval.

Also, Dulgar told commission members that Mount Carmel will be having a forensic audit completed on the city's water pricing. "We need to see if we are charging the right amounts for water," he said. Dulgar explained that he had seen some rough estimations of what those numbers should be and he doesn't agree with the findings.

The Wabash Valley Water Commission meets again at Albion City Hall at 6 p.m. June 7.

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