St. Clairsville officials, residents want more answers about water system and potential privatization

St. C. officials, residents want to know more

Bill Brooks, standing, speaks with St. Clairsville Safety and Service Director James Zucal prior to Monday’s council meeting. Brooks opposes the city privatizing water and wastewater service.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — City leaders and residents will be going on a fact-finding trip as council considers whether to privatize its water and wastewater system.

So far, the private entity Aqua Ohio has expressed an interest in purchasing the system, and residents have questions about what the future will look like if that happens.

Council members Frank Sabatino, Mark Bukmir, Jim Velas, Perry Basile, Linda Jordan and Council President Tim Porter conducted a meeting Monday with members Mike Smith and Beth Oprisch absent. Residents on hand included Bill Brooks, who spoke out against privatization and in favor of continued local control during council’s last meeting and asked for more resident input. He did not speak during the meeting Monday but talked with council members before and after the session.

Mayor Terry Pugh said while city officials have spoken with representatives of Massillon, a city serviced by Aqua Ohio, he also plans to tour two smaller communities it serves on April 10. He will be accompanied by Velas and two city residents, Ernie Schlatt and Brewster Martin. They will visit the Ohio communities of Green, near Canton, and Struthers, near Youngstown.

“We’re going to talk to the smaller locations and meet with the mayors there and also visit the water plants. We’ll report back next meeting,” Pugh said.

St. Clairsville Mayor Terry Pugh announces that he, a councilman and some residents will go on a fact-finding trip April 10 to gather information as the city considers water and wastewater privatization.

Velas added afterward that they would discuss the conditions of each community and the impact of privatization on water rates.

“We want to compare what their problems were, that we had, that caused them to switch over to Aqua and compare what their rates have done,” Velas said. “The rates seem to be a concern of most of the citizens that have voiced a question about it, and we want to see, too, what is best for us.”

Velas reiterated that no matter what decision council makes, a rate increase is certain.

“Our rates are going to have to go up, too, to make the changes and repairs,” he said.

In March, council authorized Safety and Service Director James Zucal to put out requests for information, proposals and quotes. He said Monday that he is still in the process of reaching out.

In other matters, council held the second reading of an ordinance authorizing Zucal to solicit competitive bids for street resurfacing and authorizing the expenditure of up to $150,000. Zucal said he is in the process of assembling a preliminary list, with a finalized list to be presented to council at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. April 15.

He said Norris Avenue and North Market Street and a portion of Lexington Avenue are among the likely targets.

“If any of you have some concerns or areas that need paved, please forward those to me,” he said. “We are working on a list, and when that list is finalized I will make sure council gets that, and it will be distributed to the public.”

He also reported that crews working with the Durapatcher machine have been active and attending to potholes during the more favorable weather experienced recently.

He also noted ongoing culvert replacement work on Tudor Drive and St. Clair Street, as well as storm sewer repairs on Westminster Drive.

The safety committee will meet at 9 a.m. April 25 at the city garage, and the Cumberland Trail Fire District will meet at 3 p.m. April 10 at the firehouse.

Jordan said an Easter egg hunt will be held in two sessions beginning at 1 p.m. April 14 around the J.B. Martin Recreation Center. It is a free event for children ages 12 and younger. She also noted that the park is now open daily.

The Bible Reading Task Force will be reading April 25 through May 1 in front of the Belmont County Courthouse with the National Day of Prayer to be held May 2. Jordan noted the group is looking for readers to participate in intervals of 15 minutes. Call Steve Roten at 740-359-3159 for more information.