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No rate hike for this year

BARNESVILLE — Village officials will not pursue a sewer rate increase this year and discussed options for tackling at least one large infrastructure project.

Councilman Tim McKelvey on March 29 made the announcement concerning sewer rates, saying the decision had been reached during a Water & Sewer Committee meeting held March 25. He said members would look at a possible rate increase again next year.

Village Administrator Roger Deal added, “We have enough data that it just wasn’t justifiable to impose the rate increase.”

The committee meeting had been called for during the March 15 council meeting when several critical, but expensive, infrastructure projects were discussed at length. An overhaul of the Westview Drive sewer lift station, which could cost as much as $385,000, was prioritized by Deal as the most critical of the projects discussed.

Last week Deal said that while there was “nothing official yet,” the recently passed American Rescue Plan eventually could be a possible source of funding that could be used toward that project.

Councilman McKelvey expressed his desire to move forward with planning the project.

“What do you think about if we fund the engineering and we can get started on this and then if we do get funding we’ll be ready to go?” he asked.

After Fiscal Officer Jeannie Hannahs said she had received an email that indicated officials would know how much Barnesville would be receiving by the middle of May — but not when the village would be getting it — Mckelvey continued: “Here’s my concern, I don’t doubt that we’re going to get some money, I just worry that it’s going to be so late that we can’t get this done this year.”

Deal said the engineering work would cost less than $50,000, and Councilman Terry McCort expressed concern that getting ahead of the funding could cause problems. It eventually was decided that Deal could get some more information and members could choose the best way to proceed at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. April 12.

Deal also announced that the village had secured its second grant to help fund the Slope Creek Waterline Project, which will replace the 60-year-old concrete and asbestos pipeline that transports water the nearly 5 miles from Slope Creek Reservoir to the village’s water system.

Deal said Mayor Dale Bunting had signed the agreement for the maximum of $250,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission funding that came through the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association office in Cambridge.

Deal added that there was still one more pending grant source and reminded those present that they had access to a zero percent loan through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for the project as well.

In response to a question from Bunting concerning progress toward constructing a new wastewater treatment plant, Deal said design work was between 90% and 95% complete and that they would need to revisit that project soon.

Deal explained that he was focused on funding the Slope Creek Waterline this year.

“The only reason I’m waiting on that is because we already have one big project and when you go to these funding agencies, you don’t want to have both hands out,” he said.

Deal and council members also discussed options for purchasing an $80,000 multi-use valve exercising apparatus that they originally had planned to obtain through a Bureau of Workers’ Compensation grant that, according to Deal, has since been canceled.

While it was generally agreed that it would be a worthwhile purchase, Councilman Tony Johnson said he would like to see the machine in action first and Councilman Jamie Betts asked about finding another community and going in together on one.

Deal said he had attended a pre-construction meeting concerning the Ohio Department of Transportation-funded widening of the intersection of Pike and Chestnut streets, where Ohio 147 and 800 converge by Starr’s Used Cars. He said ODOT expects traffic to be restricted beginning April 25 with a “substantial completion” date of July 31.

Council authorized Fire Chief Tim Hall to apply for a grant from JB Green Team to purchase rescue air bags and approved the removal of Erica Patton from the EMS Department.

Betts asked Hall how many paramedics were currently employed by the department. Hall replied that currently are were only two with four “intermediates.”

Betts expressed his desire to have more paramedics on staff, saying, “I just think we need to look at options on how to fix that. Paramedics can go 20 miles and make 50% more than they do here.”

Hall agreed.

Councilman Terry McCort expressed his appreciation to local emergency and medical services for getting him through a recent unspecified medical emergency: “I would like to thank Barnesville Hospital for very speedy service during my recent event. We are certainly blessed to have something that close, and I credit them with actually saving my life. The e-squad was phenomenal even though I don’t like to ride backwards in anything,” he quipped.

In other business, council approved paying bills in the amount of $94,363.32 and approved building permits for Chris Powell to enclose a porch at 132 1/2 E. Main St., for Dennis and Marie McCrate to put in a new footer and foundation block at 504 N. Lincoln Ave., and for Jackie Huntsman to demolish a house at 508 S. Highland Avenue.

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