Steubenville hires Arcadis Engineering

STEUBENVILLE — The city hired Arcadis Engineering of Akron to put together the state required water system asset management plan and a valve replacement program.

After hearing presentations from from Arcadis, Prime AE and HDR Inc. prior to the full council meeting Tuesday evening, council appeared ready to hold off one more week on choosing a consulting firm. Fourth Ward Councilman Scott Dressel moved to table the hiring one more week and some council members said they still needed time to digest the presentations.

City Water and Sewer Superintendent Chuck Murphy noted each week’s delay was making it harder for whatever firm is hired to meet an October 1 deadline for submission of the asset management plan to the Ohio EPA. City Manager Jim Mavromatis said after hearing all three vendors, he had do doubt recommending Arcadis as not only the lowest bidder but one with a large asset management planning department.

“You can decide tonight or table this tonight, but Arcadis made a good presentation,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Barilla noted the Arcadis proposal was for the lowest cost, at $175,000, while Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn said the experience Arcadis has in drafting the state regulations for the plans was a strong point for her.

Second Ward Councilman Craig Petrella said he had a problem with the potential for bidding out mapping of the city system in the Arcadis proposal.

“But if Chuck and the city manager are comfortable, then i am comfortable voting today. We are against a deadline and we need to get off dead center and keep moving forward on these projects,” Petrella said, asking for a meeting to further study “all the pieces of the puzzle” relating to the city’s water system woes.

The city drew the attention of the OEPA following a 12-day water outage to downtown in January resulting from water line breaks and the inability to isolate them because of old and inoperative valves.

Dressel withdrew his motion to table the ordinance and council voted 6-0 in favor of Arcadis. First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto was absent.

The city has applied for a $7 million state loan for the valve replacement project, and heard the first public query about rates rising.

City resident John Giles wanted to know how much the rates will go up and when.

Mavromatis said a rate study still will be needed and that will take time. Giles said people couldn’t keep paying more to the city, but 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna asked, “What happens if you can’t get water out of your pipes?” He said council will work toward the lowest rate it will need.

“What will face this city with the water infrastructure if this happens to us again? We have some serious problems,” Villamagna said.

Mavromatis sait it wasn’t fair to blame previous administrations because the city has faced the loss of customers with the loss of jobs and the loss of the steel mills in the area. The city has about 2,000 fewer water accounts than it did three years ago, Mavromatis noted.

Dressel pointed out that the water, sewer and sanitation bills only can be spent for water, sewer and sanitation costs.

“I assure you, I don’t want the bill any higher but people forget that when you pay for water, it cannot be spent on other things by the city,” he said.

Water rates were last increased in 2012 and the water, sewer and sanitation minimum bill stands at $68.82 a month.

In other actions:

• Mavromatis reported an administrative warrant was executed on the former Loyal Order of Moose building in the 100 block of South Fourth Street, to move ahead with potential demolition procedures. He said there have been numerous attempts to locate the owners and a demolition will be performed after legal advertising requirements are met. He said there was a water leak that had gone undetected in the basement of the building, only found when inspectors went in the basement on executing the warrant.

Mavromatis said there are numerous vacant houses and businesses in the city that have water leaking in them even after water meters are taken, and urged residents who notice or hear water flowing to call the city.

The warrant was the work of a city task force that will continue working on Fridays, starting downtown and then working the hilltop neighborhoods, Petrossi said.

• The former Grant School parking lot area will be marked for no parking except by special permission for downtown events. There have been truck trailers parked on the lot for a nearby truck service business. Mavromatis said one trailer remains and the city did not want to tow it until the cargo is known.

• Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi reported the first letters advising owners of the 300 vacant properties on LaBelle View about the city requirement to register them have been sent. Petrossi said the letters are being sent in small batches to avoid overloading the court system.

• Council received a report from the building department about the procedures and timetables involved in issuing and processing citations for building code violations. Mavromatis told council to study the report and discuss it at a future meeting.

• Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said investigations are ongoing into the fires in vacant structures at 639 Lincoln Ave. April 3 and 1275 Lincoln Ave. early Tuesday. He asked residents who may have heard or seen anything to let the city inspectors know. He said two more fires on Wellesley Avenue also are under investigation, though one in the 1400 block of Wellesley Friday evening was ruled as having been set.