PREBLE COUNTY — During a Camden Village Council meeting held on Thursday, March 15, councilman Kelly Doran broached the topic of a leachate agreement Preble County has with the private community of Lakengren. He noted, a Preble County Commissioner had reached out to him claiming the Lakengren lift station could not handle the leachate fast enough and the county was having to truck excess leachate to Middletown, at a rate of 15 cents per gallon.
According to Doran, that commissioner asked if Camden had the capacity to handle the excess leachate, as when there is a rain event Lakengren does not have enough space to handle all the leachate produced. Doran then proceeded to share his opinion this agreement between Lakengren and Preble County is wasting taxpayer dollars.
When officials from Lakengren read these words from Councilman Doran, they felt they and the commissioners had been painted in a negative light. They attended the Preble County Commissioners meeting held on Monday, April 2, to “set the record straight” and get “their side” on record.
Dave Thomas from Lakengren Water Authority stated the article written about Doran’s comments had “a lot of inaccurate information” and “shed a terrible light” on Lakengren and Preble County.
“We read with some interest [The Register-Herald] article concerning a request to extend service to the north end of Camden, I guess that was the discussion, but there was considerable discussion about the Lakengren Water Authority and the commissioners. There was a lot of inaccurate information passed through The Register-Herald, and I wanted to know what your opinion was on that. We’re here to answer any questions on that,” Thomas said.
“Again, I hope you all recognize the inaccuracies in the comments that were made at that meeting. We’re here to answer your questions on that.”
Commission President Chris Day stated, he had not yet read the article and was unfamiliar with the situation. Commissioner Denise Robertson handed him a copy of the article to skim over. Then, she stated, “I have read the article a few times, because I received a few phone calls. First of all, the conversation started with my calling Council Member [Kelly] Doran and asking him if there was capacity, when we have to truck to the landfill, to take it.
“He asked me about the project that is in the works and how much it is supposed to take. We had just gotten that information, so I told him. Then he asked, how much we have paid Lakengren since the beginning of the contract and I told him. Other than that, this article is conjecture and opinion of the council member. I saw a commissioner asked a question and that part is true. The rest of it? That is just his opinion.”
Thomas responded, “I kind of guessed about as much, but there was so much in this article that really shed a horrible light on the commissioners.”
“Some of it, I think, is historical. Some of it is from back in the day, long before I was involved,” Robertson said.
“It was in our local paper and it was so inaccurate. We just felt it shed a poor light on Lakengren and Preble County Commissioners and our relationship, which we always valued and thought to be A+ and it wasn’t reflected that way,” Thomas said. “We wanted to make sure there wasn’t any misunderstandings between us. I think our relationship has been beneficial to both and a tremendous partnership. I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and that we’re all still happy.”
President Day said, “I apologize that I have not read the article, but I guess, I really don’t need to read the article, because I sit here and know what is going on. If there is previous history that is being brought up, I don’t know why that is being done. I agree with you. Since we ended up going down this path, eight or nine years ago now, the options chosen in Lakengren has been a great partnership.
“We work really well together. We do have limiting factors at this time and the biggest thing is that there is more volume and unforeseen things that we didn’t see going in. You can project all you want, but you don’t know until you’re actually doing it. The benefit to Lakengren and savings to county have been huge. There have been areas of concerns, but we are in the early stages trying to figure out where we go from here.”
“We haven’t gotten to the nuts and bolts of things. We need further investigating,” Day continued. “There is going to be a cost to that and we have not discussed who is going to pay for that. All we have done, at this point, is looked at the situation. We have to get surveying work done still. We’re very early on in investigating where we go from here. If there are comments made by someone, there is not a whole lot we can do about that, but at this point we are very early on and have a lot of things to talk about.”
Thomas added, “I think you are absolutely right and I think after six years, and not knowing what we had going in, I think good engineering suggests we take a look at it and make some tweaks. There have been no failures. We just wanted to make sure we are on the same page.”
Water Authority Manager Alan Stobaugh said, “Our biggest concern is, we want to make sure there is no confusion as to what is going on. I’m kind of upset, because it paints us in a bad light and suggests that we are not taking care of our business on our end of it. To be honest with you, it kind of upsets me when it is absolutely not the case. This is working beautifully for everybody involved, including the taxpayers.”
“My intent of the question was just to save the county money in trucking. Why truck it to Middletown, when you can truck it to Camden,” Robertson explained.
“I got a lot of phone calls about the article and I did read it. I was very upset when I read it. I want you guys to know that we appreciate our relationship. All those things were said in that article, but it was said by a person who hates the commissioners and is very upset with Lakengren,” Commissioner Rodney Creech said.
“Unfortunately, they are wearing their emotions on their sleeves. I am embarrassed as a commissioner that I had to read this and I apologize, because our relationship is great. You guys are doing your job and we are trying to look into the future to see what is best for Preble County and Lakengren. For someone to shame us for our processes out of jealousy, it does not bother me one bit, but it does upset me.”
“I want to put on the record, I’m a couple paragraphs into this article, and this is why I typically do not read the paper. I applaud [Lakengren] for coming in to discuss this, because inaccurate information is what gets people in an uproar. By no means am I dissatisfied with this partnership. I am very disappointed by this. If we do anything, it will be sitting here in this room at this table. If you guys have any questions, please come in to discuss them with us,” Day said.
“It has been a great partnership and yes, there have been some bumps in the road, but there always is. We’re dealing with an unknown that we hadn’t dealt with before. Now we’re trying to fine tune, so generations to come have a great situation and know what to do. I thank you for coming in today.”
Robertson added, “Coming in and talking to us on the record is exactly how it should be handled. I wasn’t real happy when I read the article, I can tell you that, but I was really trying to save the county money.”
It was further pointed out, Lakengren may be a private community, as stated by Doran, but it is a community that is made up of Preble County residents. Lakengren is agated community, but they are still county residents. Also, while the community is private, it is a regional water and sewer district. Lakengren does not own the water and sewer district, it is public, according to Stobaugh.
“To the defense of the paper, they just put in what they hear,” Creech added. “They are doing a great job — we wouldn’t have known about this if it is not for The Register-Herald. I want to know what people are saying. I’m glad they put it in the paper. I hate that [they] have to report that misinformation. We beat up on the media all the time, and we should, but this time [they’re] actually on to something.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH