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St. C. calls for resident Census response

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Time is running out to be counted in the 2020 Census and with the county seat still in danger of losing its city status, city officials emphasized the importance of self-responding or cooperating with the enumerators who have begun visiting residences.

The Census has been a priority for city leaders since a projection from the U.S. Census Department found St. Clairsville was close to dipping below the 5,000-resident threshold necessary to qualify as a city, and standing to lose eligibility for state and federal funds. However, the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has stalled Census outreach efforts, and residents are apparently less cooperative.

Planning and Zoning Director Tom Murphy, who has been spearheading the city’s efforts, gave his latest report Tuesday via teleconference, with residents having until Sept. 30 to register.

“Our self-response portion of the Census is pretty much wrapped up, and St. Clairsville has 73.2 percent response rate. In 2010 our self-response rate was 77.7 percent, that is a decrease of about 4.5 percent,” Murphy said. “I do my best to try to be positive about the self-response rate and keep pushing people that they have until that time.”

Murphy said the enumeration phase will end on Sept. 30. Murphy said the state enumeration rate has been 21.1 percent, and could potentially be a significant increase if this final phase goes well.

“That may be wishful thinking, but those are the best numbers I have to go on at this time,” Murphy said. He added that the enumerators may visit vacant houses or apartments with no response.

“The concern over St. Clairsville, whether we’ll be a city or not. Unfortunately, we can’t predict that,” Murphy said.

Councilman Perry Basile said he has visited neighbors and residents in his First Ward to speak about the Census. He urged fellow council members and other city officials to do the same.

“We’ve got to still be active and talk to our neighbors,” he said.

People can respond online at www.2020census.gov, by phone at 1-844-330-2020 or by using the paper form in the packet.

In other matters, Jeremy Greenwood made his first report to council as the new safety and service director. He was recently hired several weeks ago after a lengthy search since February for a candidate to fill the position.

Greenwood reported he has wrapped up matters and his architectural business and has begun full-time work for the city, putting in more than 50 hours last week.

“I wanted to hit the ground running and jump into some various projects,” Greenwood said.

He reported meeting with city employees and department heads and reviewing the pandemic as he looks into ways to cut costs.

The most significant upcoming project is ensuring the East End connection with Belmont County will be operable to begin purchasing water from the county as the city’s water source next year. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has mandated St. Clairsville discontinue its aging water treatment plant and surface reservoirs. The county is currently in the process of planning major upgrades on its water system.

The aging water distribution system through the city must also be upgraded. Greenwood said maps of the east-end of town were not updated after a past Ohio Department of Transportation paving project, meaning 2,000 feet of pipe will not have to be updated. He is also reviewing funding sources from the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association.

He reported on a recent water audit. Now that the city’s public buildings have been metered, the audit has placed the city’s water loss at 30 to 33 percent rather than the 48 percent once predicted.

“Obviously, once we start purchasing water, we need to get that down a lot further,” he said.

Flooding on Bellview Street and Overbaugh Avenue must also be addressed. Greenwood said the lines under these residences are being investigated with cameras, and funding may be available through the EPA and Ohio Public Works. Meanwhile, the city will continue to investigate short-term solutions to alleviate flooding.

He is also interviewing two potential candidates for workers at the wastewater treatment plant. There are currently only about three employees at the plant.

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