Commissioners address water rates, opiates

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Board of Commissioners approved new village water and sewer rates to take effect with the Nov. 1 billing.

All rates were set at a price per 1,000 gallons of water used. The rate for Bellaire (Ohio 149 area) will increase from $5.5272 to $5.7664 per 1,000 gallons. Water rates for Bellaire Hospital will rise from $4.5312 to $4.7704. Rates for Belmont, Flushing and New Athens will increase from $4.6824 to $4.9024. St. Clairsville’s rate will increase from $4.1424 to $4.3624. Tri-County Water Authority’s rate will increase from $4.6824 to $4.9024, and Bethesda’s rate from $5.8128 to $5.9225.

This will mean an increase of 22 or 24 cents per 1,000 gallons in all cases except for the village of Bethesda, which will see an increase of 11 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Kelly Porter, director of the Belmont County Sanitary Sewer District, said the changes are based on a village analysis report for 2016.

“This is just for the villages, not the residential customers or commercial customers,” Porter said.

He added that the rates will ensure the district covers the costs of water production and distribution to the customers.

“We have to every year make sure we’re covering our expenses,” Porter said. “So then we come up with our adjusted rate.”

Porter said the villages were notified of the planned changes and made no comment in the 30-day period that was allotted.

In other matters, the commissioners again adopted a resolution filing a civil complaint against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates.

“A couple months ago, Belmont County … and many other counties and cities throughout Ohio sued the distributors of prescription opiates in federal court in Columbus,” Commissioner Mark Thomas said, adding that he attended the initial status conference hearing Sept. 26.

The suit demands that drug distributors including AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. reimburse the county for treating addicts and for housing addicted prisoners and taking care of their children, on the grounds that distributors failed to comply with federal law requiring that they stop shipments of any order that is flagged as suspicious and to report such incidents to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Thomas said Wednesday the complaint is being amended to add manufacturers as well as distributors.

In late May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against leading opiate manufacturers, alleging the drug companies participated in fraudulent marketing on the risks and benefits of prescription opiates and that this contributed to the opiate epidemic in the Buckeye State.

In other matters, Richard Hord of Martins Ferry noted that the Southeastern Ohio Building Department based in Marietta has opened an office at the Ohio Valley Mall and asked if there were any updates on Belmont County’s consideration of opening its own building department. He was told there are no updates at this time.

He also asked for comment on Congressman Bill Johnson’s introduction of a bill that might permit oil- and gas-producing counties in Ohio to keep more of the revenue generated by production on federal lands.

Thomas and Commissioner J.P. Dutton said the primary impact would be on Washington and Monroe counties, due to the presence of Wayne National Forest there. Dutton added that this was a long-standing issue for the counties.

The commissioners are also accepting applications to fill a position on the Transportation Improvement District Board. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 10. Interested parties may stop in the commissioners’ office at the courthouse in St. Clairsville or call 740-699-2155 to request an application.

Finally, the board recognized October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Wednesday.