Sewage plant project expected to begin this year

LISBON – Columbiana County received notice another piece of the funding puzzle is officially in place for the Kensington sewer project, with plant construction expected to begin this year.

“Our plan is to be under construction this summer,” said Troy Graft, assistant county sanitary engineer.

A news release issued this week by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office announced a $250,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission had been awarded to county commissioners, six months after the newspaper reported the application had received preliminary approval.

The $250,000 is part of the funding package being assembled by county Engineer Bert Dawson to fund construction of the Kensington sewage treatment plant, mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to address the problem of widespread malfunctioning septic systems in that area. It is the county’s responsibility since Kensington is an unincorporated area.

The cost now is an estimated $2.5 million (previously $1.9 million) and commissioners have contributed $184,000 to the project from their annual allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant money, plus another $100,000 from the county’s share of state casino tax money. Commissioners are seeking a $600,000 grant for the project through another CDBG program.

Graft said they also recently learned the Ohio Water Development Authority has a new grant program for sewer projects that serve income-eligible households and Kensington would likely qualify for between $500,000 and $750,000.

“(OWDA) told me the money’s there and we qualify,” he said.

Dawson is pleased with the amount of grant money obtained for the project because it reduces the amount the county will have to borrow, and the smaller the loans the less money residents and businesses served by the sewer plant will be charged in user fees to retire the construction debt.

“We try to get to at least 50 percent (grant). With the $250,000, we’re close to 70 percent grant,” he said.

The Kensington project will serve 77 households and three business, and there will be no tap fee, Graft said. As part of the additional CDBG grant money sought by commissioners is $100,000 to help households that qualify connect to the sewer line.

The nearby village of Hanoverton is under the same OEPA mandate as Kensington, and Dawson is building the sewage plant so it can be expanded to take in Hanoverton’s sewage. This would save Hanoverton and its 367 residents the expense of building its own treatment plant.

“I’m not sure where they’re at,” Dawson said of Hanoverton, “other than we have offered to help them.”

It would cost an estimated $4.8 million for Hanoverton to build the plant and other infrastructure, but the village lacks the money to do so and is unwilling to burden its residents with the cost in the form of excessively high user and taps fees. Contracting with the county for sewer service would reduce those costs significantly.

Hanoverton Mayor Dan Kibler said the OEPA appears to have backed off the village for now. ‘What the attorneys are doing is coming up with a plan that allows us to proceed when we come up with the money,” he said.

The chances of this happening time anytime soon are remote. Kibler said it would cost them about $4 million, even without building a treatment plant, to install and maintain sewer lines and a pump station in the village.

“At this point it’s still up in the air,” he said.