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Gas tax pumps cash into county

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Engineer James Branagan said the first proceeds from Ohio’s gasoline tax increase couldn’t have come at a better time.

Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday agreed to increase the appropriations to the county engineer’s department by $350,000 for the remainder of the year. Branagan said he anticipates getting about $1.3 million in additional funding next year.

State lawmakers increased the gasoline tax by 10.5 cents a gallon in July, with the diesel fuel tax going up 19 cents.

The county has been plagued with road slips caused by two years of wet weather.

Branagan said the slips will cost about $4.5 million to repair.

The county has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance in paying for the slips after a presidential disaster declaration for flooding-rainfall events. Branagan said he doesn’t anticipate getting any FEMA money this year.

He said the engineer’s department has been forced to make repairs to many of the slips because of the danger to drivers. He said he was starting to get worried the department was running low on money.

“Our goal is to keep going and hope FEMA will reimburse us,” he said.

Branagan said his department needs the extra money to repair roads and bridges but noted the cost of repairs has been going up, possibly due to contractors knowing the state and counties will be getting more funding.

Commissioners agreed to award a contract for the demolition of the old Smithfield water tank and the construction of a new tank.

The estimate for the work was $1,694,000. Maguire Iron Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D., submitted the apparent low bid of $1,608,000.

Tom Hartwig of Arcadis, the county’s engineering consultant, said he checked on the references for the company, and communities where Maguire Iron had worked were pleased with its work.

The county received $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding and $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Smithfield water tank replacement.

The former tank, built in 1938, was taken out of service because of numerous leaks.

The new 200,000-gallon tank is double the size of the old one. The tank supplies water to about 560 customers in Smithfield, Piney Fork and Dillonvale Ridge.

Hartwig said demolition of the old tank will be done in the fall, with construction of the new tank to be completed in the spring. Work should be completed, including the painting of the new tank, by the end of next summer.

Commissioner David Maple announced talks will begin with Richmond about the county taking over the village’s water system. The village is facing expensive repairs to the system and would force costs to drastically increase. The village also might be facing a state mandate to install a sewage treatment system.

Commissioners heard from Knox Township Trustee Joe Adamovich about him completing the Ohio Township Trustees Association leadership academy.

Adamovich is only the second township trustee from the county to complete the leadership program. He said only about 500 township trustees statewide have completed the training during the last 15 years.

Commissioners signed paperwork to apply again for a septic system replacement program, paid for by the state, which helps low- and moderate-income residents.

The Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District has received the grant three times, replacing 56 faulty septic systems with $660,000 in funding.

Commissioners agreed at the request of the county tax abatement board to do away with the tax abatement for Plains Energy, which has not gone through with a proposal to build a tank farm and a 2,000-square-foot office at the former Toronto Edison power plant.

Commissioners also:

¯ Approved attorney fees in the amount of $55,603 for August to represent indigent criminal defendants.

¯ Signed one easement for the Amsterdam sewer project. Three unsigned easements will be going through eminent domain proceedings.

¯ Approved the appointment of Michael Zinno, county Developmental Disabilities Board superintendent, to the Jefferson County Job and Family Services Department Advisory Board.

¯ Approved the reappointment of 21 people to the Local Emergency Planning Committee at the request of the county Emergency Management Agency.

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