Commissioners debate bulk water rates

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners on Friday said they are negotiating bulk water rates with Steubenville.

Commissioners were informed in February the city is increasing its bulk water rate by $1.30 per 1,000 gallons of water. The county buys about 2.5 million gallons of water a month from the city.

The county and city entered into a contract in 1982 to buy bulk water. The contract states any rate increase has to be proven to show a necessity.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he met with City Manager Tim Boland and Mayor Domenick Mucci to negotiate the cost of bulk water.

“We had a very frank discussion. I’m not thrilled with what was offered. Everything is still on the table,” Graham said.

Graham said the county is looking at other options, including connecting other water sources to the county system.

“There is a potential for a money savings,” Graham said.

Any increase from the city for bulk water eventually could be passed on to county water customers.

County Commissioner David Maple said the county’s water system has been operating on a deficit for the past several years because of a surplus of funds. He said the county purposely outspent revenues to whittle the amount down. He said the surplus funds eventually will be spent and the rates will have to be adjusted.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the amount of surplus money grew at the water department because of a lack of maintenance projects on the system. He said the county is now “aggressive” in maintenance, with two tank repair and repainting projects set to begin.

Commissioners also addressed repairs from damages at the Towers building on Market Street because of water leaks due to cold weather and an electrical transformer failing outside the building.

The county had to pay a $2,500 deductible to its insurance carrier for water damages from pipes bursting. The insurance company wrote the county a check for $35,379. Panhandle Restoration submitted a bill for $35,379 but the commissioners tabled paying the bill because they want to discuss it further with the company. Commissioners said there still are more bills pending for damage repairs.

The county regional planning commission asked the commissioners to buy three new computers that were damaged because of the transformer problem.

Commissioners signed paperwork applying for a Clean Ohio Revitalization Grant on behalf of the county for brownfield remediation work at the Esmark steel plant property in Yorkville.

The Ohio Development Services Agency asked the county to apply for the grant. There will be no cost to the county if the grant is approved.

Commissioners also signed paperwork accepting $12,599 in additional money from the state attorney general’s office for the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program, funded through a mortgage foreclosure settlement with financial institutions.

Commissioners also:

– Tabled a request from Dr. Michael Scarpone, county coroner, for paying a coroner’s office employee, who retired and came back to work. Scarpone wants the county to pay the worker the same amount equal to 40 hours of work but only working 29 hours a week. The employee won’t be taking county health insurance.

– Received only one bid from Traffic Tech of Cleveland for upgrading signs on county roads. The estimate was $24,736 but the company bid $31,471. The Federal Highway Administration is paying 80 percent of the cost and county crews will install the signs, said county Engineer James Branagan.

– Proclaimed March as Professional Social Workers Month in the county. Six social work major students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville attended the meeting and accepted the proclamation.

– Approved a request from the Warren Township trustees for a 25 percent weight reduction on township roads through April 30 for the frost-thaw season.

– Approved advertising for bids for the repaving of county Road 9 at the request of Branagan. The engineer’s estimate is $158,300.

– Approved the hiring of Chad Corder of Richmond as a water line maintenance worker at the county water and sewer department.