Buena Vista makes its push

STEUBENVILLE – City Council members heard story after story Tuesday night from Buena Vista residents who described low water pressure issues and concerns regarding adequate fire hydrant protection in their neighborhood before agreeing to meet one more time to decide the fate of a $150,000 state grant.

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul led an impassioned plea for his colleagues to reconsider their decision to decline a $150,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and the Ohio Development Services Agency for improvements to aging water lines and the replacement of fire hydrants in three city neighborhoods and commercial areas.

“There are four different areas identified for water line improvements but the least expensive project is the Buena Vista project. I am asking the council to reconsider this issue. I feel we should go forward with this project at this time. This is an easy fix and the least expensive,” Paul told the council members.

Paul said the replacing water lines at the far end of Buena Vista Boulevard and adding three fire hydrants to that area would cost $210,500.

“The state will give us $105,250 in a grant and we would have to match that grant with another $105,250. I have asked Finance Director Alyssa Kerker to look at the cost of our share of the project and how we would pay for it,” Paul said.

“If we do this project we could take out a five-year note requiring us to pay off the loan at $32,000 a year for a five-year period,” noted Kerker.

But, according to 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich, the city’s water fund is facing a significant deficit in 2014.

“We have to have finances in place to operate our water department. This is about money and right now we don’t have it. You can’t borrow your way out of debt,” said Lalich.

“The people in that neighborhood are paying the same fees we are paying and they deserve what every other water customer in the city gets,” remarked Councilman at large Kenny Davis.

Two weeks ago council voted 5-2 to decline the GOA grant. But Paul asked council to listen to the Buena Vista residents and to reconsider that original vote.

Tammy Sweeney said the residents live in a unique subdivision that was originally a farm.

“The property owner let people build homes on that land and then more people built homes and we now have the Buena Vista Extension with 1 3/4-inch water lines. We have up to four houses on one line. Our issue is a lack of water pressure when someone is washing clothes, filling their pool, washing a car. Imagine taking a shower and suddenly your water pressure is cut in half because someone else is using water,” cited resident Tammy Sweeney.

“I have been living with this problem for the past 30 years. Our water pressure is terrible,” said Robert Moran.

Paul Sweeney said he lives 1,400 feet from the nearest fire hydrant.

“How long are the fire department’s hoses? If they can’t reach me with their water hose I’m in trouble,” said Paul Sweeney.

Following the 45-minute committee meeting, Tammy Sweeney said she was happy “people got to voice their concerns and we will be back next Tuesday.”

Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci said the city has until Sept. 23 to officially accept or decline the state grant.

In other business Tuesday night, Assistant Water Superintendent Michael Wigal announced a water leak repair project has been scheduled for Sept. 6 on Market Street.

“We feel there is a significant water leak in that area that we hope to locate and stop. We plan to open the street that day and bare the water line. There may be a temporary interruption of water service on that day. But if we determine the work is more extensive than we anticipate we will stop the job and resume the work on Sept. 8. That is a Sunday and it should be less of a disruption to the downtown area,” explained Wigal.

Mucci said city department heads have been planning a strategy for the project and potential water service disruption for several weeks.

“If we have to shut off the water to the downtown we will use the reverse 911 system to call all water customers in the affected area with a land line to notify them of the disruption. This water leak problem has existed since 2010 and nothing was done. We are going to address this issue,” stated Mucci.

Health Commissioner Patty Reda announced the city health department will be dropping oral rabies vaccinations throughout the city starting today in conjunction with the Jefferson County Health Department rabies vaccination program.

“I am urging city residents to keep their pets inside. If you find one of the rabies bait vaccinations pellets, please use gloves or paper towels to pick it up and throw it in a wooded area. This vaccination is designed to stop rabies from spreading in raccoons, coyotes and foxes,” said Reda.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said the draft of the city’s new comprehensive plan is available for review on the city website, our office and at the main Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and the Schiappa branch library.

“The final public hearing on adopting the new comprehensive plan is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the council chambers. City Council will vote on the plan at the Sept. 10 council meeting,” said Petrossi.

Kerker announced the 2013 city audit is ready to be submitted to the state auditor’s office.

“Our private auditors are prepared to meet with the council in an hour-long executive session on Sept 17,” Kerker said.

Council approved several pieces of legislation during the 70-minute regular meeting, including authorization to purchase a belt filter press for the wastewater department Tuesday night. It was the third and final reading for the legislation.

Wastewater Assistant Superintendent Chuck Murphy had proposed buying a new belt filter press and stop leasing a similar used piece of equipment as a money-saving project. The press is used to treat sludge at the wastewater plant.

Murphy estimated it will take approximately eight months from ordering the press to final delivery.

In other business, council passed emergency legislation for a design build contract with MWH Constructors for the lower University Boulevard sewer repair project.

Council adopted legislation amending the city’s revenue tax budget and an appropriations budget for the remainder of the year.

And emergency legislation was approved Tuesday night to sell $460,000 in utility bonds to pay for improvements at the city’s water filtration plant.

Council agreed to an emergency ordinance amending the city’s table of organization to reflect the police union 2.2 percent pay raise effective Sunday, as well language to bring the Municipal Court clerk’s pay into line with other city employees and amending the council clerk job from a part-time to a full-time position.

A second reading for legislation authorizing the sale of city property no longer needed for municipal purposes was heard by council. The city property auction has been scheduled for Oct. 12.

Council heard the first reading of an overtime and compensation time leave policy for city exempt employees.