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Big leak? Firm hired to solve Salem water puzzle

SALEM –The city of Salem Utilities Department is experiencing an increasing water loss, with plans to use the company Leak Seekers in an effort to determine the cause.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said Thursday during the city Utilities Commission meeting that utilities personnel aren’t sure what’s causing the problem, whether it’s a physical leak or a meter issue. No leak has been found at this point.

The water loss had reached an amount of 22 to 23 percent of the water capacity, then on Tuesday, the loss amount spiked to 28 to 29 percent, which equates to half a million gallons of water considering the plant was at a maximum capacity of 4.4 million gallons of water on Wednesday.

Commission Chairman Bob Hodgens said they can tell when there’s a loss by looking at how many gallons the water plant is putting out and then looking at how much water is being billed.

“Let’s see what’s going on here,” he said.

In other business, the commission was happy to hear that Ohio Edison finally agreed to the easement needed for the Snyder Road sanitary sewer line project for a consideration of $1. Jon Vollnogle of Howells & Baird, the engineering firm on the project, had been trying to secure the easement for a long time, with negotiations and an appraiser hired after Ohio Edison originally asked for what the commission considered an unacceptable price. The commission had started looking at alternative routes.

But in the end, Ohio Edison came through and Hodgens was thankful. He said nothing else was stopping the project from going forward. The job had been awarded to Rudzik Excavating of Lowellville back in February for $1,827,449, but had been delayed due to the problems with securing easements. The intent is to have a pre-construction meeting possibly next week. When asked about the tolling of time for the project, Vollnogle said the time starts with the notice to proceed which hasn’t occurred yet due to the delay.

The contractor will have 540 days, but may need more time depending on the weather this winter. The delay wasn’t the fault of the company.

In a safety matter, the commission agreed to the purchase of a remote-controlled gas-powered mower to be used in the dam area of the water plant at the reservoir. The machine to be purchased was a demo model with 10 hours of use. Since it’s a demo, the utilities department will get a 20 percent discount and a purchase price of $29,857 with a one year, 400-hour warranty. Commission members said concern for workers trying to mow on the steep hillside led to the decision.

The commission also heard updates on several projects, including the installation of new water and sewer lines on Franklin between Lincoln and South Broadway. The lines have been installed and connections had been made or were being made to customer service lines, but there’s still some cleanup work to be done. The road remains closed with local traffic only.

Once that’s all finished, then the road will be paved.

The commission heard from Weingart on considerations for a water treatment plant expansion and improvements, noting that they’re just in the planning stages right now. Last month, the commission authorized the administration to engage two separate engineering firms to provide a scope of services for the upgrade based on needs suggested by the department and the engineers. Weingart said this will allow the engineering firms to present ideas that department personnel haven’t seen.

“You’ll have some big decisions to make on picking an engineer,” he told the commission.

The next commission meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 19 in the second floor conference room of the utilities building.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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