Ellendale: Sussex County proceeding with potential water district boundary

ELLENDALE – Sussex County is gearing to prime the pump in the process for potential establishment of a water district for portions of Ellendale.

As per Delaware Code, the county has received the required minimal number of formal petitions to proceed with establishing a potential water district boundary for the greater Ellendale area.

An informational meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the Ellendale Volunteer Fire Company on Main Street.

This meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., is “designed to get in front of the community and answer questions, prepare them for what we are proposing and make them keenly aware of what we are being asked to do and what they are going to be asked to vote on,” said Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson.

In this project, Sussex County will contract with Artesian Water Company to supply water to the customers. In addition, Artesian will perform maintenance on hydrants, valves and water main as well as general operations and maintenance.

Artesian will provide meter readings to Sussex County, which will perform individual utility billing based on meter readings.

As presented at the Aug. 8 county council meeting, the estimated average household cost annually is about $400 based on consumption and front-footage cost. Non-profits such as fire companies and churches do not pay front footage costs.

The county has established baseline cost estimate with Artesian at $6.58 per 1,000 gallons for bulk supply.

After the informational meeting, county council will vote to establish a proposed boundary. Once the final boundary established, county staff will develop detailed cost estimate.

“We will know exactly many users we will have and that will allow us to have a cost estimate,” said Mr. Lawson.

The county will hold a mandated public hearing on the proposed boundary and present cost estimates and explain the procedure for the referendum, which would be held in the fall of 2017.

The county will find agencies and “put together a funding package with a very good estimate that we will put in front of the voters of Ellendale to then decide whether or not they want a water district,” Mr. Lawson said.

This is not the county’s first attempted water district venture into the Ellendale area.

“We attempted to establish a water district several years ago. That referendum failed. Since then nothing has taken place as it relates to the county’s involvement,” said Mr. Lawson. “A little more than a year-plus we were asked to come back and see if we could establish a water district. In that initiative, we have met with Ellendale town council, representatives of the Ellendale fire company, and other community leaders within the Ellendale community. This includes the municipal boundaries of Ellendale as well as some surrounding communities.”

Mr. Lawson said the county received the sufficient number of petitions – state code requires a minimum of 50 – to trigger the water district process.

“We have discussed this proposal with our federal and state funding agencies and we have commitments from these agencies once we have a district and go through that process where we will actually talk about actual funding,” said Mr. Lawson. “Because we are receiving federal and state funds there are water meters that will be required. So, every customer that is within the district will have a water meter on their property that will read their consumption.”

County councilman Rob Arlett asked why the county is even involved.

One reason is the county’s competitive advantages to grant funding.

“If we were not involved, Artesian is only loan eligible, not grants,” said Sussex County Engineer Hans Medlarz.

“Bottom line is that the residents of this county will not be subsidizing this water district and it will pay for itself?” asked Mr. Arlett.

“Affirmative …,” said Mr. Medlarz.

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