Leetonia putting more money toward finding leaks in the waterline

LEETONIA — Village Council continues to address a shortfall in the water fund caused by leaks in the main waterline.

Council last week updated the water rate ordinance to change the distribution of proceeds, moving 15 percent of the minimum bill from debt retirement to operation. Five percent of the minimum bill will still go toward debt retirement.

The debt retirement currently has $119,000, but the village only uses $19,000 per year. With the change in distribution, the village will still generate enough money for debt retirement to carry through the life of the loan, according to Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar.

There have been five leaks that have required boil alerts within the past couple months in the waterline along State Street (state Route 344) west from Madison Street. Leaks have also caused a significant shortfall in the water fund because the village is paying Salem for water that cannot be billed to customers.

In January Village Administrator Gary Phillips suggested the cut in the water debt retirement fund, which pays into loans taken out for the water department.

Phillips suggested reducing the fund by 50 percent or suspending it altogether for 2017. Currently the village has been paying $45,000 annually and could be getting by with $14,000, Chismar said at the time.

Earlier this month council authorized Phillips to apply for inclusion on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA)’s Water Supply Revolving Loan Account for the replacement of the line. The project calls for the main line to be replaced and tied back in at Ridge Street, plus customer taps re-established.

If the village is placed on the list, then the project is evaluated for possible funding, Phillips said.

The village is applying for $246,779, but Phillips said due to the health risks created by the leaks the village could receive 30 to 40 percent forgiveness on the loan.

Work on the line is also causing periphery, and possible legal, problems.

Phillips reported last week the village has been billed over $2,200 by Ohio Edison after village employees had to have the company hold up a utility pole while they worked on a leak recently. He said the workers had to get closer to the pole than they wanted, but it was necessary to complete the repair.

Phillips said he hopes to negotiate the bill with Ohio Edison. He said the waterline was there first, so the village is not responsible for the utility pole, but the company is saying the village got too close to the pole.

Village Solicitor Walter Newton responded with a list of reasons why the village is not responsible, including the pole is on the village right of way, the line was there first and if there was a problem with getting too close to the pole, it is the project contractor’s responsibility.

In other business, council approved 4.4 miles of roadway to submit for the Columbiana County Engineer’s Office’s chip and seal program for this year, including the stretch of High Street council is considering closing with immovable barricades.

Phillips said just because the streets are added to the list does not mean they have to have them resurfaced. The county will provide a cost at a later date and council can decide which, if any, streets to have resurfaced.

Also at the meeting, Phillips reported the Greenway Bike Trail trailhead project has been pushed back at week to start March 27 and will take approximately three weeks to complete.

Council also approved $180.20 for the village’s share of a pre-construction meeting with Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc. for the project, as well as a change order of $480 for LED lights at the trailhead.