Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program
Newly elected officials or part-time administrators in small communities often need help with the complex job of providing drinking water to residents and managing wastewater treatment. Since 1980, small communities in the TMACOG region have been able to call for help from the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP).
RCAP serves mostly communities of 10,000 or fewer residents. The program provides free and low-cost technical services and provides training seminars. Deb Martin, Program Director Great Lakes RCAP, says that at least half of their work is helping unsewered communities that want to build wastewater treatment plants. RCAP helps these communities hire engineers, organize the entire process, and very importantly, identify and correctly apply for funds. Ms. Martin says, “Small communities often need multiple sources of funding, all with different time schedules, application procedures and documentation. We help with that process.” Often, a community will need to provide an income survey of residents as part of an application. RCAP can also help with that survey.
Another big part of RCAP’s work is helping sewered communities upgrade or repair their existing systems to meet EPA requirements. A big part of maintaining a system is deciding how to assess residents to pay for it. RCAP can do a rate study and help determine how to raise rates in an equitable way that allows the community to sustain their system over time.
Mayor Rod Opelt of the Village of Lindsey recently attended a recent RCAP training seminar at Owens Community College. He said, “Our village is just like every other. We struggle with water and income. No elected official wants to raise rates.” At the seminar, Mayor Opelt learned how years of scrimping might lead to a deteriorated system and a big rate increase, where sustainable management might mean more frequent but smaller increases. RCAP offers a series of seminars covering training for utility boards, financial management, and asset management.
Deb Martin, who has been with RCAP for 17 years, describes the value of the program to small communities. “We do critical work. No development can happen until basic water and wastewater treatment is established. In addition to the development issues, water supply and treatment is a public health issue.”
For more information, see the Ohio RCAP website. Or call Deb Martin, program director Great Lakes RCAP at 419.334.8911.
RCAP helped the Village of Bettsville in Seneca County with a major sewer project. After completion, RCAP was able to help the Village of Burgoon tie in to the Bettsville system.