City agrees to deal to sell water

SALEM – The city Utilities Commission agreed Tuesday to a proposed one-year deal to sell water to Chesapeake Exploration for $5 per 1,000 gallons of raw water, pending approval from the city law director.

Rather than hold up the contract, the commission gave approval for the chairman or vice chairman to sign it once the law director has finished reviewing it and gives his OK for the language.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart and Assistant Superintendent Matt Hoopes explained the company can purchase up to 20 million gallons of water without negotiating an additional amount of water. Anything over 20 million gallons would have to be negotiated.

Still to be determined are the times when the company can draw the water and the plans for drawing the water, which will come from a reservoir.

Commissioner Bennie Funderburg, who was attending his first meeting after being appointed to the commission by Mayor John Berlin, asked what neighbors would be impacted by the trucks coming to get water. Weingart said there may be one or two neighbors, but Commission Chairman Geoff Goll noted that is the company’s obligation to talk to the landowners.

Berlin had been working on negotiating a water deal for several months with Chesapeake Exploration and had been trying to get $7.50 per 1,000 gallons of raw water. When asked what was happening with the deal in November, he said he had talked with a Chesapeake representative and some testing had been completed on the city’s water, but the representative told him “there’s no 911 on water.”

He said there didn’t appear to be any sense of urgency by the company for the water at that time.

In reviewing some year-end reports, Commission Vice Chairman Bob Hodgson commented that citizens used 50 million gallons of water in 2012 and the city processed 42 million gallons of water through the wastewater treatment plant. He said he was amazed at the numbers.

In other action, the commission reviewed a claim filed by Fairview Court resident Roger Zeigler regarding sanitary sewer backing up into his residence on Dec. 15 and causing damage. His homeowners insurance was covering $5,000 of the cost, leaving more than $900 out-of-pocket costs for him for the cleanup.

Goll said they will recommend forwarding his claim to the city’s insurance carrier to investigate to see if any of the remaining costs can be covered through the city’s policy, but also said the commission couldn’t do anything with his specific claim because the commission didn’t have control over the damages.

He said the city can’t control what people put into the system. The line had already been unblocked, but workers were using a camera to search the line for any problems.

Using Zeigler’s situation as an example, Goll said they strongly recommend that back flow devices are installed in all new homes that can help prevent sewage from backing into a home.

He also offered a plea to the public to call the city water department when there’s a problem so they can respond. If it’s a weekend, he said to call the police and they can contact whoever is on call.

If there’s a sewer blockage, he said to call the city right away and someone from the city will respond right away to work on the problem.

Zeigler said this was the second time something like this had happened in four years. He thanked the commission for their time and complimented Weingart on the information he provided him and how he treated him.

The commission also agreed to subtract $161 from a sewer bill Connie Borrelli received for an inherited property on West Seventh Street. She had been advised of high usage on the property which was not normal and discovered a toilet running. She had never been told by a relative about any problem with the toilet. The average bill previously for water and sewer was $9.87. The combined bill for water and sewer in December was $283.13 and the bill for January was $38.40.

Since the water that went through was clean water, the commission agreed to just have her pay the minimum sewer bill for December and January. She had explained that it wasn’t that she didn’t want to pay the bill. She said it was a fluke thing.

Goll had explained since the water was used, the commission had no control over the water portion.

Last month, the commission had approved selling or scrapping a 1987 GMC Sierra 1-ton truck with winch and a 1970-era generator from the East Pershing Sewage Pumping Station that had been replaced in 2007.

The department had been contacted recently about possibly donating the items to vocational programs for training purposes and agreed to donate the truck to the Salem High School vocational program. They were going to check on whether to donate the generator to the SHS or to the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center for student training purposes.

The next meeting of the Utilities Commission is 3 p.m. Feb. 12.