WILMINGTON — Brian Shidaker is looking for answers.
In April the city received a reimbursement bill from the state of $289,467.23 for operations and maintenance cost charges for Caesar Creek Reservoir. The bill came from the state and, like previous ones, had no explanation, according to Safety and Service Director Shidaker.
The reimbursement is required by law through a contract known as the Corps Contract, in which the city shall reimburse the state for operation and maintenance cost charged.
In a spreadsheet dating back to 2004, the city never paid over $200,000 for operating and maintenance. The highest until this year was $187,192.97 in 2006. The spreadsheet detailed the Wilmington Water Department’s water purchase from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“This had been an ongoing problem ever since we entered into the contract back in the ’90s,” said Shidaker, who became the Safety Service Director in 2016.
He stated there are two issues with what’s going on. First, how much water is purchased and how much is used.
“We purchase 7 million gallons a day, but use approximately 2 million, but pay for 7. It’s just part of the agreement,” he said.
The second issue is the city also covers operation and maintenance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sends a bill to the state. The state sends them a bill for the amount. The bill was $289,467.23; last year’s bill $103,391.77. It’s
There was no explanation for the increase, according to Shidaker. This plus the large increase motivated the investigation. At the May 18 city council meeting during the Water Committee report, Committee Chairperson Kelsey Swindler presented an ordinance concerning this bill, moving a sum of $140,000 from the Water Fund to ODNR payments.
“We’ve got no other reason. We don’t even know what we’re paying for,” said Shidaker. “So we reached out to the state. They basically said we just received the bill from the Army Corps of Engineers and we pay it per the agreement. They don’t care because they’re getting reimbursed 100 percent by us.”
Shidaker said they tried getting answers from the Army Corps of Engineers but haven’t heard anything from them. So, now they’re reaching out to U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers and senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman.
To date, he has only heard back from Stivers’ and Brown’s offices.
A field representative for Stivers, Joe Bengoechea, emailed saying they spoke with the Army Corps of Engineers and were waiting on a response.
Brown sent a letter to Jennifer Greer of Congressional Affairs Officer of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the concerns.
The News Journal attempted to contact all three elected officials for comment but received no responses in time.
“I don’t know if this is going to the dam or to the marina. Just tell us what we’re paying for,” said Shidaker. “Transparency in the main thing.”
He hopes to get an itemized list of where the money is spent, hoping for an indication of what led to the higher price.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574