The village of Bethesda wants Belmont County to assume more of the cost of placing waterlines near Bethesda as the county collects more money from the oil and gas industry, and seeks to expand waterlines to the west.
Belmont County and Bethesda have a "gentleman's agreement" through which they had planned to partner on the placement of 4,300-feet of 16-inch waterline to link Bethesda's water system with county lines. Bethesda is upgrading its water system, and the village has agreed to pay for the installation of the line if the county provided the pipe.
Bethesda, which purchases its water from Barnesville, also promised to buy their water from Belmont County once their new water system was operational.
No contractual agreements have been signed, and Bethesda officials asked county commissioners this week to move on the matter as Bethesda plans to open its new water system in July. They also asked if the county might now assume the cost of the pipe.
"Our system is almost complete, and there has not been one stick of pipe or agreement set up between the county and Bethesda," said Richard "Dick" Quinlin, water project coordinator for Bethesda. "We need to talk to you to get this resolved in the next few days. In July, we're going to be ready to turn the water on. We've come to you not to demand, but to ask."
Quinlin said Bethesda officials saw where Belmont County had received more than $3 million for mineral leasing rights from Rice Energy. Commissioners opted to use most of the money to pay down the county's debt service, but Quinlin told them there are at least nine entities along Ohio 9 served by the county's pump system, and all would benefit by investing in the Bethesda project.
"We will stick to the gentleman's deal - we've got to," Quinlin said. "But if you could consider helping us out with the construction, it would be helpful."
Costs to Bethesda for the waterline project have thus far been $208,000, and the village also has applied for an Ohio Water Development Authority grant, according to Quinlin.
County Water and Sewer Superintendent Mark Esposito said the county and Bethesda have been in discussions about the project regarding two issues. In the first, Bethesda officials have objected to the price they will have to pay to purchase water from Belmont County, and they want to negotiate a lower rate.
Esposito said he told them negotiation wasn't possible, as the county charges municipalities a price based upon what it costs them to provide them water.
"That's why they left undecided, and we don't have an agreement yet to sell them water," he said.
Secondly, the 4,300 feet of pipe must be placed and a new pump station constructed to ensure suitable water pressure to the additional customers, according to Esposito.
The 16-inch line Esposito said is required for the project is larger than is needed to serve the Bethesda community, according to Quinlin. Quinlin suggested a cheaper 12-inch pipe could instead be used.
Commissioner Ginny Favede asked if it was possible the county instead pay the difference in cost between the 12-inch and 16-inch lines. Commissioner Matt Coffland said the commissioners would get with Esposito to determine the difference in cost.