Levy won’t be going on ballot in Mingo

MINGO JUNCTION – Village residents won’t be seeing a fire and emergency medical services levy on the November ballot but may see an increase in water bills by the end of the year.

Councilman George Irvin made a motion during Village Council’s meeting on Tuesday to begin the process of putting a proposed 3-mill levy for fire protection and emergency medical services on the November ballot, but the motion died for a lack of a second. Council first would have to approve a resolution of necessity, which would be forwarded to the county auditor’s office. Council then would have had to approve a resolution by Aug. 6 to have the levy on the ballot.

Fire Chief John Wright proposed the levy, which would have generated about $120,000 a year.

Council held a public meeting on June 3, where the majority of residents said they were against paying the levy.

Irvin, who is council’s water and sewer committee chairman, also raised the issue that the village may not be able to make its payment on the water plant bond come next year.

The village pays about $542,000 a year for the construction of the water plant. The village only has about $35,000 remaining to make the bond payment next year, according to figures released in January by village Clerk John Angelica.

Irvin said the village could no nothing and default on the loan payment, raise rates or sell the water plant.

Irvin presented council with figures on raising water rates to generate enough revenue to make the bond payment. He said defaulting on the loan would be “fiscally irresponsible.”

He noted a decision has to be made before the end of the year.

Irvin proposed raising the quarterly base rate from $51 to $59 and increasing the per-thousand-gallons-of-water cost from $8.31 to $11.50 – a 27 percent increase quarterly.

A resident using 10,000 gallons of water a quarter would see his or her water and sewer bill increase from $206 to $246 – a $160 per-year increase.

Councilman Mike Herrick said the water plant is the biggest problem facing the village and it has to be solved by January.

“We don’t want to go into default or it (the plant) will go to the state. If we have to raise rates, then we have to raise rates,” he said.

Councilman Jack Brettell, who has been outspoken on overtime costs at the water and sewer plants, said he is in favor of paying the loan for the plant but not paying extra for workers.

Councilman Adam Peeler said the problem with the water plant loan may be “out-of-control expenses.”

“It is not fair to keep raising rates for residents,” he said.

Council this year imposed a $6 per-month increase in sewer bills to pay for the Lincoln Avenue sewer separation project.

Village Administrator Steve Maguschak said he has concerns about village residents being able to afford the water rate increase.

Irvin said the cost to residents may be greater if the water plant is taken over in default.

Council also heard complaints from a couple residents at the meeting about discolored water.

Maguschak said the cause is the replacement of water lines as part of the sewer separation project in the Lincoln Avenue area. He said a temporary line was installed in the project area that has disturbed sediment – mainly iron and manganese because of the hard water coming from the village’s water wells.

Maguschak said village workers will be flushing hydrants Thursday and Friday during the early morning hours to try to alleviate the problem.

A project that may help the hardness of the water also was approved by council.

The village purchased a $29,000 lime feeder at the water plant but it will cost $18,770 to install the lime feeder. The lime helps to soften the water, Maguschak said.

Maguschak, who also is police chief, said he received a letter from the sheriff’s department about responding to calls when a village police officer is not on duty.

The sheriff’s department will respond to any emergency circumstance to preserve human life, property or any criminal offense that is in progress.

When a criminal offense is not in progress and there is no threat to human life or property, the complainant will be referred to the village police department.

Council also heard from a Brian Savage, a representative of the Ohio Public Entity Consortium, about health insurance for village workers. Savage said the consortium is joining the Jefferson Health Plan, operated through the Ohio Mid-Eastern Regional Education Service Agency. The plan has more than $100 million in assets for health insurance programs for schools and government entities, including Jefferson County government.

Savage said the program could save the village 2.5 percent in premiums, resulting in a savings of $220,000 through 2020.

Council will meet as a whole with the two unions in the village at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.

Herrick and Brettell raised the issue of vandalism at Aracoma Park. Both said the security cameras at the park have to be fixed. They said the vandalism is being done by teenagers.

“Anyone caught on camera doing damage, their family will be responsible,” said Mayor John Fabian.