SMITHFIELD - A public meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Smithfield Presbyterian Church to discuss the Jefferson County Water and Sewer Department taking over the village's water system.
Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the meeting was scheduled by Smithfield officials so village residents can offer input on the proposal.
The village owes the county about $150,000 in unpaid water bills. The village has owed the county money for water purchased for the past eight years.
The county took Smithfield to court in 2004 to recover more than $260,000 owed. The village has paid off that amount, but the delinquency has since grown to about $150,000.
Graham said the county has offered to take over the village's water system and forgive the debt.
Graham said village officials after the meeting will have to make a decision on the county's offer.
If the village refuses, the county could go back to court to try to collect the money, Graham said. The county also has the option of bypassing the village and forcing Smithfield to find another source of water.
The village in July agreed to turn the system over to the county, but wants cash to be paid in addition to the water debt being forgiven, no increases in rates for five years and village water workers to receive jobs at the county water and sewer department.
Graham said the county rejected the counteroffer, saying the county can't guarantee jobs for Smithfield village workers and can't promise there will be no water rate increase.
A letter from the county's attorney, Anthony Pecora, to Smithfield Solicitor Bryan Felmet in July stated the county's water rate is actually lower than Smithfield's rate.
Graham said the county water and sewer department stated it would cost $800,000 to make repairs to Smithfield's water system, mainly lines and the water tank.
The letter to Felmet states the $800,000 to fix the system, plus the $150,000 in debt forgiveness, would put the county expenditure for the system at close to $1 million.