County waits on state before doing Devola sewer project

The Washington County commissioners are awaiting a response from a state agency before they hit the ground running on a Devola sewer project.

During the first phase of the project in the fall of 2011, workers began to rehabilitate any existing sewers in Devola. Phase II was to have started in June, but the need for additional testing of the on-lot systems to determine if they are healthy delayed the project. The commissioners said they hope the testing will begin in the fall, and a small fee will be charged to each home that participates.

The delay stems from the discovery of unsafe drinking water in 2010 in Devola because of a high level of nitrates one time during a months-long water study by the Ohio EPA. By court order, the EPA required remedies, including a $2.6 million reverse osmosis facility to clean the water, Commissioner Ron Feathers said.

Between the $5.9 million sewer project that’s yet to be started and the reverse osmosis facility, “It’s a double remedy for a problem that’s not really a problem,” Feathers said.

Feathers, Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider and engineering consultant John Grosse went to the EPA on July 9 and proposed a new time line on the project to allow testing to be completed and a decision on whether to narrow the study or go full bore with it.

The study will determine if Devola has a water problem, Feathers said. If there is a problem, the preference would be to address it at the local level through the Washington County Department of Health. Another goal is to determine which customers should hook into the new system.

The county has access to a $1 million low-interest loan, available through July 2014, and a $400,000 grant to help pay for the project. Commissioners said they would seek other sources of funding because they didn’t think Devola could be burdened by the $4.5 million to pay for the work.

“Once we get approval, that’s when we move ahead quickly,” said Feathers.

The commissioners will schedule a town hall meeting within at least two weeks of the EPA approval of the new plan.

Feathers said he is encouraging citizens in the area to become involved with the project at the grassroots level because other communities, such as Oak Grove, would be the next area to deal with sewer issues.

In other business:

Commissioners acknowledged a request from Joe Faires, services division manager at WASCO, to move the Cafe on the ground floor of the Washington County Courthouse to the office space now occupied by the Washington County Board of Elections.

“This will give us the opportunity to include a secluded area that would give customers the opportunity to sit and relax with their meal. This opportunity may increase our service options as far as redefining the menu selections,” Faires said. “This opportunity may also increase the number of individuals we employ at the Cafe.”

The board of elections will begin its move Monday to Suite B of the Children Services facility, 204 Davis Ave., Marietta. The board initiated the move to Davis Avenue because of tight space issues in the courthouse.

The commissioners discussed a new rental agreement with the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

The agency’s lease ended June 30, and after some discussion, the commissioners will propose a flat rental charge of $1,000 per month instead of a prorated utility fee of $250 per month for utilities. The commissioners plan to discuss the fee with the agency before adopting legislation on the final fee, perhaps as soon as the Aug. 15 meeting.