Utilities board shocked by higher chemical prices


Money monopolized the agenda at the Salem Utilities Commission meeting Thursday, with a $1.8 million contract awarded for the Snyder Road sewer line project and the bid phase started for the $5.3 million wastewater treatment plant Phase 2 upgrade.

Uncollectable debts for water and sewer bills were written off, too, for properties on Newgarden and South Ellsworth and for the long gone Ames department store and three Dairy Marts..

The first item on the agenda, though, really caught the attention of the three commission members: bids for chemical supplies for the year jumped up to 22 percent more than last year’s prices. The chemicals are used at the water treatment plant.

“Some of these prices are astronomical,” Chairman Bob Hodgson said.

According to his calculations, the increases will boost the department’s costs nearly $46,000 this year.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said they could reject the bids, but they are limited with who can supply some of the chemicals, particularly the chlorine, plus the increases are representative of the low bids received. The other bids were even higher. The bids for potassium permanganate increased the least for a price 1.59 percent higher than last year’s price, to $318.80 per 100 cwt from $313.80 per 100 cwt, from Bonded Chemical.

The commission agreed to award the contracts to the low bidders, but commission member Randy Malmsberry commented, “we’re not really in favor, but we have no choice.”

The other contracts included: chlorine, Jones Chemical, $550 per ton (up 19.56 percent from $460 per ton); hydrate lime, Bonded Chemical, $174.40 per ton (up 16.89 percent from $149.20 per ton); ferric chloride, liquid, Bonded Chemical, $572 per dry ton (up 22.22 percent from $468 per ton); and hydrofluorsilicic acid, Bonded Chemical, $24.80 per 100 cwt (up 19.23 percent from $20.89 per 100 cwt.

For the Snyder Road sewer line extension project, Rudzik Excavating of Struthers submitted the lowest bid at $1,827,449 and was awarded the contract. The company’s bid was the only one out of five to fall under the engineer’s estimate of $1,930,500 from Howells & Baird. Engineer Jon Vollnogle spoke to three other firms who had worked with Rudzik previously and all spoke highly of their work, their staff and their equipment.

For the Phase 2 upgrade at the wastewater treatment plant on Pennsylvania Avenue, bids will be opened on March 15. The project includes removing four existing settling tanks and replacing them with two new circular primary settling tanks, conversion of an existing settling tank into a sludge thickening site, and construction of a new administration building and sludge storage pad. Hodgson said it’s necessary to replace aging, outdated equipment and bring the plant into compliance with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rules.

The uncollectible debts being written off include: $92.32 and $45.44 for 342 and 346 Newgarden Avenue; $48.62 and $30.39 for 374 S. Ellsworth Ave.; $61 and $99.68 for Ames, formerly at 2350 E. State St.; and $160.52 and $281.79 for three Dairy Mart stores formerly located on East State Street, West State Street and South Lincoln Avenue.

The next Salem Utilities Commission meeting is 4 p.m. March 21.