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County Commisioner: Littler

November 3, 2012
The Marietta Times

Peg Littler

Age: 68.

Address: 601 Chamberlain Drive, Marietta.

Party: Democrat.

Occupation: Teacher/Tutor at the Washington County Career Center.

Past Offices Held: Marietta City Schools Board Member 1999 - 2002

1. Commissioners have been asked to devote more of the one percent sales tax funds to road and bridge maintenance. Should more money be given for this purpose?

I support a fair and equitable increase of funds to the county roads and bridges ONLY if the 2013 budget allows for this increase without eliminating other line items for necessary services and programs to the county.

Ohio law allows commissioners to establish up to a 1 percent permissive sales tax and to allocate these funds. In 1983, the commissioners dedicated 85 percent of this tax to roads and bridges. This percentage was reduced due to the county being in jeopardy of being broke. The 1 percent Permissive Sales Tax is a source of income for our county. The county budget is the key to fair and equitable distribution of funds. The budget is controlled by the State of Ohio with many unfunded mandates.

The current formula is solely based on the miles of road each township has as the main criteria for percentage of funding. Our county roads and bridges are vital for a thriving community. Allocation of funds to both the county engineer and the townships must be reviewed on a yearly basis as required by Ohio law.

The yearly budget is established in December of each year. The Commissioners have met with a committee of township trustees and have agreed to review the percentage of funds to be allocated to the townships and the county engineer.

I applaud the county commissioners for their cooperation and willingness to review the current funding formula. It is important to note that our county is fortunate to have township trustees who work together in a spirit of cooperation for the common good of all. During 2012, 17 of the 22 townships received an additional $700,000. It is obvious that the commissioners are willing to increase funding if the budget permits such.

2. What's the best way to move forward with the development of adequate sewage treatment facilities in the county without burdening homeowners or violating their rights?

It is a fact that there are areas in our county with old septic systems. No matter how well the system is maintained the systems can and do release toxic waste into our waterways and water systems.

The county commissioners have and must work cooperatively with the landowners of Washington County to maintain a healthy and safe environment. The commissioners must continue to work diligently to research, develop and maintain grants and other sources to help alleviate the burden of the homeowners expense of installing and maintaining a proper sewer system.

Ohio Revised Code (ORC) established that each county be the overseer for the county water and sewer systems. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) notifies each county of viable environmental issues. The EPA then mandates that the county resolve the problem. If the county does not address problematic issues the Ohio Attorney General takes notice which results in possible fines and penalties. At the very least, the positive working relationship now held with the ORC, EPA and Attorney General's office could be jeopardized. Replacing ineffective septic systems is mandatory. It is the responsibility of the commissioners to oversee the systems, determine the extent of any problem and work with the residents affected to alleviate the problem with the least amount of burden to the homeowner. Ineffective septic systems could have a negative impact on property value. The longer we wait to replace old systems, the higher the cost will be.

The Ohio Environmental Agency has stated that there is a public health nuisance resulting from ground water pollution in the unincorporated area of Devola. The commissioners are doing everything possible to keep the cost down. On Oct. 1, 2012 the commissioners applied for an Ohio Public Works Commission Grant for approximately $2 million to offset the project's projected $5 million cost.

In the Woodlawn area of Belpre, there have been areas of overflow and leakage in lift stations with toxic water going into local waterways and ultimately the water system.

The commissioners held several meetings with the residents of Woodlawn. A consulting engineer has met with all parties, talked to all references to assure the residents will have a full-time inspector on the site, and assurances have been made for repairs and other issues for the residents' property and safety. It is unfortunate that these problems exist...but they cannot be ignored...we must take steps to make our water and our waterways safe and healthy for our county.

3. What steps need to be taken to protect the area during the oil and gas boom and to ensure the best economic benefit? What should the commissioners' role in this be?

First and foremost, the most important role of a commissioner is to work with the township trustees and the county engineer to safeguard our roads and bridges. This is the responsibility of the commissioners.

The Ohio EPA and ODNR are the primary agencies responsible for the protection of our environment, the rights of landowners and the health and safety of our land, water and citizens.

Washington County is in a position to have an economic "boom." Agencies such as the Port Authority and Chamber of Commerce will play a vital role in oil and gas development. This development will increase business for hotels, restaurants, laundromats, auto services and other amenities needed for the increased number of people in Washington County.

As commissioner, my responsibility will be to serve as a resource person for landowners. I will take responsibility to communicate with our county residents and encourage them to: 1) have legal representation for contract issues; 2) ask questions and get factual answers on the effect of property value, environmental factors, land damages, surrounding roads and bridges and any long-term issues.

I also recommend that landowners research and/or contact the Southeastern Ohio Fracking Interest Group (SEOFIG) which is a group of Southeast Ohio landowners and concerned citizens with a desire to share information about the oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing process. They believe in helping landowners make informed decisions about oil and gas leasing and taking steps against potential air and groundwater contamination due to oil and gas drilling.

Injection wells in Pennsylvania now ship waste water to Ohio. Salt water brine is acceptable but it is apparent in some cases we are receiving a degree of chemicals in the disposal of this waste water. Ohio needs to have higher standards of regulations so we (Ohio) are not the "dumping ground" for toxic waste. SB165 is a step in that direction as it does increase standards for well owners.

Washington County Commissioners govern the county. They are public servants.

I welcome the opportunity and the challenges to serve the citizens of Washington County.



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