USDA Finances Belmont County Sewer Work

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Belmont County Water and Sewer District Director Kelly Porter, from left, discusses planned upgrades with Commissioners Mark Thomas and Josh Meyer on Wednesday.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County has been approved for more than $12.3 million in funding for long-awaited improvements to sewer infrastructure, county commissioners announced Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a grant of nearly $3 million and a low-interest loan of more than $9.3 million for the project, which includes renovating the Fox-Shannon wastewater treatment and collection system.

Along with the Fox-Shannon upgrades, the county will also see mall lift station upgrades and a Summer Hill lift station upgrade.

According to county officials, these lift stations are vital to retail and infrastructure and the Fox-Shannon upgrades are long overdue.

The project could go to bid in June or July.

“This is for the sewage projects that we have identified as necessary to meet modern treatment standards and to, in effect, grow the system,” Commissioner Mark Thomas said, adding that the 40-year loan has a fixed interest rate of 2.125 percent.

There is no prepayment penalty and the commissioners would be able to make extra payments.

Paying off the loan will cost about $356,000 annually, with the first payment not due until one year after closing.

Commissioners also plan to refinance almost $5 million in existing debt at the 2.125-percent interest rate.

“The grant of $2,998,500 was initially something that was unexpected. We had hoped to get the entire 12-plus million dollars as a loan, but this is wonderful news for Belmont County and its taxpayers, when you get $3 million in a grant for anything,” Thomas said.

Commissioners thanked Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, as well as U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, for their help in obtaining the funding through the USDA Rural Development Division’s Marietta office.

The county has been working with the USDA regarding planned improvements to water and sanitary sewer services totaling more than $50 million.

“We’re hoping to hear on the water projects, which is the bulk of it — $39 million to $40 million or so — sometime hopefully in early 2018. Whether or not we get all that amount, we certainly don’t know,” Thomas said.

“Hopefully, this is exactly what will happen with the water side, too, next year,” Commissioner J.P. Dutton added.

Commissioners also noted the county Water and Sewer District office has moved into the newly purchased former Gulfport Energy building on Oakview Drive. The county purchased the three-and-a-half-year-old building for about $1.1 million.

Water and Sewer District Director Kelly Porter said his department made the move on Monday.

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