City to address water project

STEUBENVILLE – Buena Vista neighborhood residents will get a chance to make their case for an upgrade to their water lines in their subdivision during a public Utility Committee meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Council chambers.

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul called for the committee meeting to discuss the West End Water Improvement project, “and to give the Buena Vista residents a chance to talk about the aging water lines in their neighborhood and comments made to them in the past.”

Two weeks ago council, by a margin of 5-2, voted 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.

The grant was announced in October 2012 during a press conference at City Hall.

Mucci said he and council were made aware of the grant earlier this year by Buena Vista neighborhood residents.

Jason Wilson, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, presented a $150,000 State Appalachian Development Grant to the city in October 2012 for improvements to aging water lines and fire hydrants. Joining Wilson at the check presentation ceremony were state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire; Mucci; City Manager Cathy Davison; and Todd Walker of the Ohio Development Services Agency.

Mucci told council members at the Aug. 13 meeting, “I have talked to officials at the Ohio Development Services Agency who are willing to allow us to restructure the grant application but we will need to provide $150,000 in matching funds. I told those officials I would not make a move until I have a clear decision by City Council. Normally the council is aware of a grant application but in this case that didn’t happen.

“It is a dollar-for-dollar match. We do not have the financial flexibility in our water fund and if we want to proceed, we will have to obtain a loan. The one project that is somewhat affordable is the Buena Vista area. If you want to go that route the state will accept a revised application,” continued Mucci.

“I would like to know who determined the areas that need a water line upgrade. What about Chestnut Street, Whitehaven Boulevard and parts of Braybarton Boulevard where lines are repaired on a weekly basis? That’s where we should have looked to replace water lines. I don’t know who came up with this water line replacement list that is all in the West End,” 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins said.

“The water fund is projected to be $55,000 in the red by the start of 2014. I am not in favor of this,” Perkins added.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich said he was not in favor of spending $150,000 until we get the water fund under control.

Councilman at-large Kenny Davis and 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul voted in favor of accepting the grant and proceeding with the Buena Vista water line replacement project.

“I will notify the state, thanks but no thanks for this grant. We can look at grant applications again in the future,” said Mucci.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf asked Assistant Water Superintendent Michael Wigal to prepare a list of water line problem areas throughout the city.

The utility committee also is scheduled to discuss ideas to resolve the water fund deficit on Tuesday. Lalich has said he has ideas, “and wants to start a dialog so we can avoid raising water rates.”

And, City Engineer Michael Dolak will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in public session to discuss the Ohio Public Works Commission 2014 street resurfacing project. The regular council meeting will follow at 7:30 p.m.