June 2019

Bryan Times June 3, 2019

Tri-state council of governments is in the works

Report by Don Koralewski

What began as an idea, spurned (sic) on by the lack of official avenues to address a proposal to tap into and commercialize the Michindoh Aquifer, is becoming a reality.

Late last week, Williams County Commissioners initiated an agreement that would bring into partnership all counties that draw from the Michindoh.  The agreement lays out the structure of a new council — the Ohio-Michigan-Indiana Council of Governments.

Williams County is the first of nine counties in the region to adopt the agreement.  The agreement, which has been under consideration and in the works for months, has been sent on to the other concerned county supervisors for consideration and adoption as well.

The purpose of the agreement is to join the nine counties in one public body to provide services to the Ohio-Michigan-Indiana (OMI) region to develop better coordination, protection and satisfaction of the interests of the public and public governing bodies of the region.

Following passage of the resolution of agreement, in Williams County, Commission President Terry Rummel said, “This is the three-state, nine-county get together to work with the aquifer trials and tribulations that we have going on.  Specifically for my interest for a monitoring system to, hopefully, be put in place for sure.  If nothing else, to come together as a group and be able to talk about it openly and honestly.”

Commissioner Brian Davis added, “Right, the object (of this regional council) is to speak (with) one voice.”

The other eight counties in the tri-state area have yet to adopt the agreement.  Rummel said Commissioner Brian Davis will be in contact with them in the coming days.

The purpose of the council — as stated in the agreement — is to be a public body and provide services within the OMI Region to develop better coordination, protection and satisfaction of the interests and needs of the public governing bodies.

The seeds of this organization were planted early last year when Williams County Commissioners passed a resolution in opposition of a proposal by Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) to commercially provide Michindoh Aquifer water to communities around Toledo that are currently being supplied by Toledo for their municipal, residential and industrial water needs.

(Reader Alert: One paragraph omitted)

At an October 2018 meeting of elected officials and county representatives from most of the tri-state counties, hosted by Williams County Commissioners, Defiance County Commissioner Ryan Mac presented efforts that he’s been involved in to establish the organization.

“We’ve done quite a bit of research into this regional council of governments that exists down in southwest Ohio, between Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana,” said Mac.

The regional council Mac spoke of is OKI, or the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.  The organization is a tri-state council of local governments, business organizations and community groups committed to developing collaborative strategies to improve the quality of life and the economic vitality of the region.

OKI has been in operation since 1964, and has focused on issues related to the greater Cincinnati area in the three states.

According to Rummel, OKI was the template for a regional council here, as much of the groundwork to establish a cross-border working group has been done by OKI — specifically state laws that would permit such cross-border cooperation between governments.

“OKI is a huge, multi-million-dollar entity that has millions of dollars in grant money funneling through it every year,” said Mac in October.  “I don’t think that, to start with, we as a group would want to make it something that big, but we could start with something small like monitoring the Michindoh Aquifer.”

As agreed to, the Ohio-Michigan-Indiana Regional Council of Governments would include the governing bodies of Williams, Fulton and Defiance counties of the State of Ohio; Lenawee, Hillsdale, and Branch counties of the State of Michigan; and Steuben, DeKalb, and Allen counties of the State of Indiana — if all of these entities sign off on the agreement.

The agreement has been reviewed by attorneys general of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana and is in accordance with state law in all three states.