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Jefferson County utilities seeing growth

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners talked about the growth of the county’s water system has been experiencing with Water and Sewer Department Director Michael Eroshevich at Thursday’s meeting.

The topic came up when a motion was made to send an agreement to the village of Richmond for the county to take over the village’s water system, which would have needed costly repairs to continue operating on its own.

“They reached out to the county to see if we would be interested in taking over their system, which we are,” Eroshevich said. “We already have the ability to feed their system. They’ve been operating off of wells, but they do take a small amount of water from us and we have the ability to furnish their whole system.

“What this is going to enable them to do is to turn it over to us. Their customers will become our customers.”

“Long-term, it will save Richmond and the citizens of Richmond a good bit of money,” Commissioner Dave Maple said.

The system, Eroshevich said, will be fed from the Toronto water plant.

Eroshevich said the recent additions to the department, including the Smithfield system, have added around 500 customers to the county water system, while the county’s sewer system has added around 700 customers.

“I don’t know if everybody realizes but the growth of our water and sewer department over since your tenure as well, has been significant,” Commissioner Thomas Graham said. “At one time there was a lot of talk about regionalization of water and the more that we’ve been able to do this to help entities that can’t afford it themselves, this has been a win-win situation.

“It’s helped the county itself and it’s helped stabilize rates as a result of having all these new customers and helping those entities that cannot afford to make the changes that they need to update to their system.”

The commissioners credited Eroshevich, who was recently granted a new contract, for the additions and improvements.

Also for the department, the commissioners approved the hiring of Jon-Paul Pelegreen of Hopedale as a equipment operator.

Eroshevich said through a posting in the Herald-Star and on Indeed, the department received more than 120 applicants for positions open at the department.

“The toughest position to fill was the equipment operator position of course because of the level of knowledge that is required.” Eroshevich said.

The commissioners also approved a change order on the Amsterdam sewer project, but Tom Hartwig of Arcadis — the county’s water and sewer engineering consultant — said the project is still tracking to be under budget.

Also appearing at the meeting were Regional Airport Authority Board Vice President Richard Stenzel and board member Geary Bates, while board President Brandon Reese participated by phone.

The topic of discussion was an update on a new hangar that will be constructed at the airpark.

The hangar will be a “state-of-the-art facility” according to Stenzel, and will house six planes.

Stenzel said there is a “real need” and added there is already interest from parties wishing to rent the hangars once completed.

“There’s no problem renting them out,” he said.

It was also made clear the funding for the project, which will cost an estimated $450,000, is not taxpayer dollars, rather money the airpark already has that, in accordance with an agreement with the FAA, can only be used to capital improvements at the airpark.

“Folks want (their planes) to be in a good hangar,” Commissioner Tom Gentile said, citing the rising cost of aircraft. “This creates an opportunity.”

The commissioners also hired Michele Santin as the director of the department of Job and Family Services.

Santin had been serving as interim director since the commissioners opted not to renew the contract of Betty Ferron in that role in May.

“We went through a diligent process of interviewing and we had a number of applicants for this position,” Graham said. “Michele was there on an interim basis. She comes to us with a lot of clinical experience and actually worked at children services at one time in her career. She comes highly recommended, she had a great interview and she’s doing a great job for job and family services.”

The contract is for three years, running until August 2023.

The commissioners approved a motion to proceed with Signs Limited for signage outside of the Towers Building, pending a rendering for the commissioners to review and approve. A previous estimate was $25,000.

County Auditor E.J. Conn appeared to discuss new requests from county departments for C.A.R.E.S. Act funding, one of which was a request of more than $10,000 from the board of elections for added costs in cleaning polling locations and postage for an expected increase in mail-in-ballots.

Conn and Maple are now holding weekly meetings to plan the usage of the funds.

“We appreciate the job the auditor’s office is doing,” Graham said.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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