HANOVERTON - Village Council could be facing its own Kobayashi Maru moment in regard to construction of a state-mandated sewage treatment plant.
The Kobayashi Maru is a no-win test for Star Fleet cadets in the fictional Star Trek universe, and Hanoverton officials must either come up with an affordable way to pay for the $4.8 million plant or pass the entire cost on to residents.
Mayor Dan Kibler said he, Councilman Dan Kiewall and Village Solicitor Jim Taus met last week in Columbus with state officials to learn whether any state or federal funding was available for the project.
"We were basically told there's no money left" at this time, he said.
Hanoverton, population 367, is under a mandate by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to build the treatment plant because of problems resulting from malfunctioning septic systems in the village.
The original plan was for the village and Columbiana County commissioners to build a plant that would serve Hanoverton as well as the Kensington area of Hanover Township, which is also under OEPA orders. Commissioners opted out of the joint venture in 2011 because of the cost, saying it would be cheaper for them to build a separate plant to serve only the Kensington area.
This left Hanoverton on its own, and the first step was to perform a household income survey, which is used to determine the village's eligibility for state and federal loans and grants to help fund the project.
A total of 125 of the 153 households participated in the anonymous survey, which determined the median household income was $33,000 - $18,000 below the statewide average.
Kibler said their goal was to get enough grants and interest-free loans to lower the village's out-of-pocket costs to $1 million, which would reduce the monthly user fee to about $63 per household, $16 above the statewide average preferred by the OEPA. There would also be a tap-in fee of about $5,000 per household.
Without this money, the entire cost would be passed on to residents, which comes out to $31,000 per household.
"When we were down there (in Columbus) the head of the Ohio Water Development Authority looked at the EPA representative and said 'What can you do to help these people,' and he didn't say a word," Kibler recalled. "There's just not a lot of money out there."
Hanoverton's annual operating budget is $110,000, and the only employees are a part-time street department worker and a part-time police officer. Kibler said they currently owe $4,000 to the law firm retained to represent them in their dealings with the state and handle the income survey.
Kibler said passing the entire cost on to residents is obviously an unacceptable and financially impossible option, so the next move is up to the OEPA and whether it wants to continue forcing the issue.
"If we go into litigation (with the OEPA) we can't pay that. We don't even have the money to pay our attorney fees," he said, "and if they fine us, we'll have to dissolve because we simply don't have the money."
Hence, the Kobayashi Maru comparison.
If the village were to be dissolved, it would become part of the township, transferring responsibility for providing sanitary service to county commissioners.