BWD money in hand, Liverpool looks ahead

EAST LIVERPOOL – With eight years of legal maneuvering over, the city’s utilities department is finally recouping the money it lost from the Buckeye Water District breaching a contract to purchase water.

At Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Public Utilities, Director Bob Disch reported all but $265,000 of the $6.2 million owed by BWD has been paid, with a $1.5 million check recently received.

The remaining amount it due within 10 days, Disch said.

With the money expected to soon be in the bank, so to speak, Disch asked the board to consider some options for allocating it, including repaying the city $1 million for the cost of a new water line on St. Clair Avenue completed in 2005.

In anticipation of receiving that repayment, the city earmarked $1 million toward the final purchase of the former Riverview Florist property.

In addition, Disch suggested repaying the legal costs of the lawsuit to the departments that funded those costs. He said $386,674 has been paid thus far in legal fees, with April and May invoices still expected.

Other costs associated with the legal defense included $19,547 for expert witness fees, transcripts and copies, bringing the total legal expenses to $406,222 to date.

Disch said $62,000 is owed the Water R&I Fund and $344,222 to the Water Fund of those amounts.

He also said the law director has recommended placing 23 percent of the total amount received in the R&I Fund since, had the water been purchased from BWD as called for in the contract, that amount would have been deposited into R&I.

The board agreed to Disch’s proposals.

Once these bills are paid, Disch said, there are a number of projects that have been delayed over the eight-year life of the lawsuit due to lack of funding.

“We’re working on a wish list. All these years we let things go and now we’re playing catch-up,” Disch said.

He asked permission to proceed with an electrical project at the water treatment plant, starting with placing a newspaper ad requesting proposals from engineering firms, to which the board agreed.

Also to begin will be the process to replace the first filter of several that need replaced at the treatment plant. Once it is determined if this filter is working properly, discussion can begin on replacing the others, Disch said.

One project that had already been approved involves relocating water and sewer lines in the Little England section of the city, and Disch reported work is set to begin, with funding applied for and easements being acquired.

The board also gave its permission for repairing a hole on St. Clair Avenue that is “rippling” after its initial repair last fall. The estimate provided by city Planning Director Bill Cowan is $60,000 to redo the section of street.

Water Superintendent Tim Clark reported the Environmental Protection Agency conducted the annual inspection at the water plant Monday and was pleased with recent painting of storage tanks but expressed concern that the pipe galley is not yet painted, also saying the plant is “vulnerable” during power outages due to lack of a generator for the booster station, but Clark said loss of water service has never been an issue during a power outage.

Resident Betty Ward asked about a reduction in garbage rates for those who only have a small amount and was referred to the service-safety director since the BPU only bills for the service.

A letter was distributed from a person writing on behalf of a disabled Saint George Street man who cannot get out to pay bills and would like to be allowed to use his debit card via the telephone.

Currently, credit and debit cards are not accepted, with Disch saying it is expensive and cumbersome for the department because money paid on a water bill is split into several departments, which cannot be done with credit/debit cards.

Nonetheless, board member Fred Rayl said he will contact the man and see if there is anything he can do.