WILMINGTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to bill the City of Wilmington for maintenance at Caesar Creek Lake that is not related to the supply of water.
And the city continues to push back.
The city recently received an operations and maintenance bill — totaling $206,712.35 — based on work done from July 2017 through June 2018, the city stated in a news release Tuesday from the office of Director of Public Service/Public Safety Brian Shidaker.
“We are pleased the bill is less than last year’s,” said Mayor John Stanforth. “But after a thorough review, it includes many items the city insists are outside our contractual obligation.”
Last year’s operations and maintenance bill was $481,569.32.
Through a series of contracts with the Army Corps and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Wilmington receives the bulk of its untreated drinking water from Caesar Creek Lake. The contract stipulates that Wilmington pay 12.7 percent of the Army Corps’ operations and maintenance cost related to the supply of water and the dam.
“We are willing to pay a fair bill that only covers items related to the water supply and the dam,” said Stanforth. “But it’s maddening when you look through this bill and see what they are charging us for.”
Among the items the city is contesting:
• A new heating and cooling system at the visitor center, along with several other maintenance items in that building totaling more than $161,000.
• Electricity for the visitor center, $13,243.
• Participation in the Cincinnati Boat Show, $1,977.
• A white board, $1,571.
• Landscaping, $1,394.
• Aquarium maintenance.
• Carp for pond management
“The city feels strongly that over the years the Army Corps has expanded the kinds of activities that it expects the city to help pay for,” said Shidaker. “The city never agreed to pay for these kinds of things and has an obligation to push back on the behalf of our citizens.”
The city’s analysis of the current bill indicates about 26 percent of it can be related to water supply activities, while about 53 percent relates to things that the city is not obligated to support. Items related to the remaining 21 percent of the bill do not provide enough information to determine whether the charges are proper.
After consulting with outside legal counsel, the city is paying 47 percent of the bill, or $97,154.80. The payment is being made as “a show of good faith,” Shidaker said in a letter accompanying the check. “The city reserves the right to contest any and all paid and unpaid charges.”
Shidaker said, “Despite the strong legal arguments that support the city, and despite the city’s willingness to litigate to protect our interest and recover our lost funds, I want to avoid needless litigation. I would prefer that the Army Corps, ODNR, and the city work together and resolve the issues through avenues that would be less taxing on everyone involved, but we will pursue this matter as far and as long as we have to for the benefit of the city and our residents.”
The City and ODNR, along with U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, have been actively working to schedule a meeting with the Army Corps.
“We are optimistic this meeting will happen and we will be one step closer to a favorable outcome for the city,” said Stanforth.