WELLSVILLE - Trustees from St. Clair Township were in attendance at the Thursday morning meeting of Buckeye Water District's board of trustees, asking about progress on a long-awaited district project.
Trustees James Hall, Jim Sabatini and Robert Swickard inquired about the district's plans to extend water service to residents in the Fredericktown Heights area of the township. Sabatini acknowledged that delays in implementation of those plans were largely due to the city of East Liverpool's recently-settled lawsuit against BWD, though not explicitly.
"I know you've been through a lot of different things over the last few years, but that seems to be settled," Sabatini told board members. "I just know that there's been a holdup from some other avenues, and we just want to get an update from you and maybe you can answer some questions."
Plans for the extension of service to the area have been in the works since at least 2009, when residents were surveyed and responded positively to the offer of water service from BWD. Sabatini says those residents have grown impatient waiting for the project to begin and have been relaying their impatience to trustees. "We're getting a lot of questions as to when, why and how this is going to get done," he said.
BWD board President Mike Ryan says the 2009 survey results showed more than half of the 200 households in the immediate area had requested service from BWD. He asserts the district had $1.7 million earmarked for the project, which is no longer available due to the lawsuit ruling.
Presently, people living in the area must utilize wells, which Sabatini says are often insufficient to meet residential demands, such as during washing-machine cycles. He asserted that some residents have resorted to drilling additional wells in an attempt to meet their needs.
In reply, district manager Al DeAngelis told trustees that the BWD board had held a recent meeting with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from whom the district had applied for a grant to carry out the project in phases.
DeAngelis says the present delay is due to what he called "government red tape," such as completing and submitting required paperwork to the USDA, and waiting for it to be processed. "Basically, we're just waiting on them to give us the go-ahead," he said. "The plans, the environmental - everything's ready to go."
According to DeAngelis, an estimated $450,000 is set to be released to BWD for completion of phase one of the multi-stage project. Hall asked if the USDA has explained why the money hasn't been released if all the requisite steps have been taken. DeAngelis replied no. Sabatini then volunteered to contact the agency to help speed the USDA's process, which DeAngelis and board president Mike Ryan agreed would be helpful.
"This is a project that we want to do," Ryan said. "We're not holding any projects back. We want to sell water to everybody." Still, Ryan says that even if the funding was released to BWD tomorrow, they would likely wait until spring before starting work due to the approach of colder weather.
DeAngelis said he anticipated the district receiving Community Development Block Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development later that day for the Duke Road extension project. At that point, contracts can be signed and work can begin. "I've sent notice to proceed through OPWC [Ohio Public Works Commission, which is also funding the project], and we've gotten that back, so we're ready," he said.