Now retired utilities manager may return to work
Former Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes may be coming out of retirement in the coming weeks.
Salem Utilities Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson announced Thursday that he was giving public notice of a plan of action for a retire/rehire situation involving Hoopes, who had retired effective Jan. 31 after 33 years with the utilities department.
Hoopes made his retirement announcement in December at the last meeting of the year, but did clarify in January that he was likely coming back in April. He explained that according to requirements of the Public Employees Retirement System, he has to take two months off before he can go back to work once he starts collecting his retirement.
Hoopes attended the meeting Thursday and last month’s meeting as a private citizen. No other discussion took place. The commission near the end of the meeting voted to go into executive session regarding ongoing contract negotiations, with no action to be taken.
In other business, the commission agreed to forgive roughly half of a higher than normal sewer bill for property owner Sue Baddeley after the pipes froze and broke open at one of her vacant rental properties. According to Baddeley, who addressed the commission, her tenants had moved out and she was working on the property, the work had been completed and she didn’t go back for one or two days at the most. When she returned, she discovered what happened and had damage to the floor. She stressed that it was not due to neglect and asked for forgiveness of the $1,165 water and sewer bill she received.
She said she’s had rentals in town for over 30 years and has always paid her bills and never had a problem like this, saying this situation “was due to nature not my neglect.”
Hodgson explained that by law any water through the meter must be billed — there’s no way around that. As for the sewer portion, he said the policy is to forgive half of the amount over the normal bill. So in this case, the sewer portion came out to $664.56. He said after they subtract out the normal average, she’ll have to pay half of the remaining amount. Her share would be over $300 for the sewer plus she’ll have to pay the entire water portion, which is over $500. According to water department records, her minimum for sewer is $7.67. None of the water went into the sewer.
Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said they would eliminate the late fee and Hodgson said arrangements can be made for payments. Baddeley thanked the commission for forgiving part of the bill, saying she appreciates it.
Mayor John Berlin also offered thanks to Weingart and to water office staffer Samantha Loper for working with the Planning & Zoning Office on providing a list of properties where water was shut off. The zoning officer will be able to check addresses to see if they’re for sale as part of the vacant properties ordinance.
For the Snyder Road sewer line project, the utilities department is still trying to resolve its differences with Ohio Edison over an easement requested across Ohio Edison property for the project. Hodgson said the company is asking for $100 per foot for 1,300 feet of easement which would total $130,000.
Jon Vollnogle, an engineer with Howells & Baird, which is overseeing the project, said that’s there starting figure. They leave it up to an appraisal so he sought out an appraiser who will look at the 226 feet where the city wants to cross. The 1,300 feet includes other easements, even one on the city’s own property, that aren’t part of the project.
Vollnogle estimated than when it’s all done, the cost will be a lot less than the original amount.
The commission also heard some information from distribution department general foreman Terry Endsley on security cameras for the buildings, with plans to get prices from both Salem Computer Center and 21st Century.
Water Plant Manager Larry Sebrell reported on the continued holdup by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on issuing the permit to install for the new Cold Run Creek Well #4. He said he received a call from the OEPA on Thursday about possibly needing to install back flow devices on not only the new well but the three existing wells too. He quipped that he may be retired by the time the permit is issued.
The next regular meeting will be held at 4 p.m. April 25.