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County discusses water issues

September 2, 2011
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners on Aug. 25 heard several presentations from the county water and sewer department, including a possible restructuring of rates that would eliminate the billing minimum of 3,000 gallons of water.

Shannan Gosbin, water and sewer department director, presented the commissioners with a proposed customer classification, such as commercial, industrial, institutional and residential. Once the commissioners approve the classifications, the board then can move forward in restructuring the water rates.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said he favors every customer paying a base rate and then paying for how much water is used.

Wintersville has a base rate for its customers, who then pay a fee based on how much water is used.

County Commissioner David Maple said the customer classification would be a good start in restructuring the water rates.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he wants to know the financial implications of restructuring the rates based on how much water is used.

The county has 7,500 water customers.

Also, the commissioners approved a $48,825 contract with Buckeye Pumps of Galion for the purchase of two chlorine booster stations.

Gosbin said water pumped to the Wintersville area from Toronto currently has a high chlorine content. Residents have complained about the smell and taste of the water. She said Toronto will reduce its chlorine content and then it will be added at the booster stations located at the county water and service complex off state Route 43 and on Fernwood Road.

The contract is for the purchase of the chlorine booster stations, and county water crews will install the equipment.

Commissioners approved a recommendation from Gosbin not to reduce the water and sewer bill for Robert Hargrave of 2 Laurel Wood, Wintersville, who incurred a $712.14 water and sewer bill when he installed a new lawn. Hargrave stated his sewer bill, which is based on water use, should be lowered because the water was used for irrigation and didn't enter the county's sewer system.

Gosbin said there are customers who purchase a separate water tap just for irrigation and don't have to pay for sewer costs.

She noted water use increases in the summer, with customers washing cars or running sprinklers, and granting Hargrave's request would set a bad precedent.

Gosbin suggested the county continue negotiations with Steubenville on the treatment of sewage from the Pottery Addition area. Gosbin said the costs of treating the sewage should be based on water use in Pottery Addition, not a meter on the sewage.

Water runoff can enter the system and increase the cost, she said.

Gosbin said sewage from George's Run is treated by Mingo Junction. Because of the wet spring, the county incurred a $43,000 cost for 180 customers. The county has 149 customers in Overlook Hills, which are billed for water and sewage by Steubenville. The sewage rate is based on water use, she said.

Maple said he will be meeting with City Manager Cathy Davison to discuss the Pottery Addition agreement.

"There is still a lot of work to be done, but I'm optimistic we can get an agreement," Maple said, adding the county expects to operate in the red with the Pottery Addition sewage treatment costs.

The county is under a state mandate to install a sewer system in the community north of Steubenville. The project is currently out to bid.

Commissioners also certified $13,055 in delinquent water and sewer bills to the county auditor, which will be placed on the real estate tax bills.

In other matters, commissioners signed two road use agreements pertaining to the drilling operations for Marcellus and Utica shale gas and oil.

The agreements are with Chesapeake and CNX (Consol).

The commissioners approved a road use agreement, which includes language outlining the company's responsibility toward use of county highways and township roads, including maintenance, dust control, road repair and school busing.

County Engineer James Branagan said Chesapeake will improve roads ahead of drilling operations in lieu of the county requiring a bond for repairs. Branagan said Chesapeake wants to bring the roads up to a better standard before equipment is moved.

CNX, which will be drilling in Friendship Park, will be hailing on county Road 23, and provided the maximum road bond. The company will be responsible for repairing any damage to the county or township roads, Branagan said.

Gentile said the two signed road use agreements set a precedent for other companies wanting to come into the county to drill.

"We can now say this is the way things are done here," he said.

Commissioners also agreed to advertise for bids for pavement markings on county roads.

The board opened one bid on behalf of the county Department of Development Disabilities for the installation of emission control technology on department buses. Developmental Disabilities received a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to install equipment that will reduce noxious emissions.

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