Diggin’ up dirt at sewage plant

SALEM – The Salem Utilities Commission kicked off their meeting Tuesday by digging up some dirt for the Phase I improvement project at the Salem Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Officials gathered at the Pennsylvania Avenue plant headquarters to break ground for the $2.7 million upgrade, with construction expected to begin next month and completion set for next August.

“Exciting times,” commission Chairman Bob Hodgson said. “It will be nice to see some ground broken out there and a building going up.”

Hodgson attended the pre-construction meeting held July 30 and said he was impressed with the general contractor. Kirk Brothers Co. of Alvada was awarded the general contract for $2,273,000, with Enertech Electrical Inc. of Lowellville earning the electrical contract with a bid of $447,400.

Project engineer Bob Schreiner of Burgess & Niple of Akron said both contractors were working on their shop drawings for the project. The contracts set the date of completion as Aug. 5, 2014 and he said neither contractor had a problem with that. The contract includes monetary penalties to be assessed to the contractors if they don’t meet the deadline.

Phase I is expected to improve the removal of solids and improve suspended solids compliance issues at the plant. Some of the work includes replacing the mechanisms of the three final clarifiers, raising the water level by a foot to add more capacity for better settling, adding a sludge thickening building to house two sludge thickeners, modifying the blower building which includes ventilation to bring it up to standards and interior and exterior piping modifications.

In business related to the Painter Road, Brooklyn Avenue and Depot Road sanitary sewer project, the commission agreed to a method to collect interest payments from customers who hook into the system and decide to pay the lump sum after the deadline but before the assessment can be placed on their taxes. The Perry Township project was done through the Columbiana County Engineer’s Office, with the lines to be owned by the city of Salem since the customers will be served through the city.

As a means to facilitate the project, the city Utilities Commission agreed to pay part of the cost, with the understanding the property owners in Perry Township would have to pay the money back with interest.

They’ll have the option to pay the lump sum or have it assessed on their property taxes for 15 years at a rate of 5 percent for interest.

Hodsgon explained they thought the project would be completed in time for them to place the assessments on the taxes for next year, but since the project won’t be finalized until Sept. 1, they’ll miss the deadline for putting on the tax assessment for next year.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said he was told they won’t know the final figure property owners will have to pay to tap into the system until all the paperwork is finished in September. The city will send a letter to property owners advising them of the amount due and the options for paying.

The commission agreed that property owners will have until Dec. 31 to pay the lump sum without interest. Since they won’t be able to submit the assessment until next year now, they’ve agreed that property owners will still have the opportunity to pay the lump sum until July 31, but the 5 percent interest will be accrued beginning Jan. 1 prorated until the day they pay. If it’s after July 31, all the costs will be placed on their taxes as an assessment.

Commission member Geoff Goll asked Weingart to make it clear to the property owners that the delay was not caused by the city.

In other business, the commission:

– approved replacing a section of the Salem Water Treatment Plant roof at a cost of no more than $16,000 due to leaks

– approved the purchase of a 2014 4-wheel drive pickup with snow plow for an amount not to exceed $35,000 through state purchasing

– approved seeking an ordinance though city council for general authorization to sell the department’s scrap metal

– approved seeking a meeting of city council’s Utilities Committee for preparation of an ordinance to seek bids for sludge removal

– learned a test water well drilled recently came up dry, with no water detected at 110 feet, with an evaluation of what to do next pending

– approved a damages claim from Springdale Avenue resident Mike Paulini due to a sanitary sewer backup into his home from a blockage in the city’s pipes earlier this month. He originally just asked for $1,792 for cleanup, but the commission told him to submit the bills for the damage and replacement of property items also. The claim will be submitted to the city’s insurance provider.

– authorized writing off a debt of the Alterra Healthcare Corporation on South Lincoln Avenue for $259 for water and $450 for sewer due to a bankruptcy case.

The next meeting of the commission will be 3 p.m. Sept. 10.