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St. Clairsville Making Progress on Water Service

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The future of water service and other long-range future projects were up for discussion among St. Clairsville city leaders Monday.

St. Clairsville is continuing preparations to discontinue the aging water treatment plant according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandates and switch to purchasing Belmont County water through an existing line.

Mayor Kathryn Thalman said she is in the process of scheduling a water audit for August with an Rural Community Assistance Partnership representative and with engineer Jeff Vaughn, who is working on the changeover process and had conducted a report finding it financially feasible.

“There will be a kick-off meeting between Belmont County, several other towns in the area, regarding water audits,” Thalman said, adding a date has not been set and the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed activity. “At this juncture we are planning to have the meeting in our council chambers, but of course it will depend on any COVID protocols.”

In addition, Thalman said that now all the city buildings are metered, they have determined St. Clairsville’s water loss is not 57 percent as has been reported, but 28 percent.

“Having the buildings metered has been very enlightening already to identify water loss,” she said.

In answer to a question from Council President Jim Velas, the Cumberland Trail fire department is metered.

Also, Thalman and other city officials are meeting with the planning company Burgess & Niple to speak about ongoing concerns of traffic tie-ups through downtown St. Clairsville, frequently following accidents and traffic jams on Interstate 70. Thalman said 55,000 cars pass through I-70 daily and accidents are increasing and undue strain is being placed on the city infrastructure from fracking trucks and 18-wheelers driving on roads not built to support them.

“In order to be ready for future development, these planners are reaching out to the state and see what kind of funding might be available to plan alternate accesses,” Thalman said.

Also, Councilman Mark Bukmir commented on the ongoing search for a service director and asked if Don Smithberger, supervisor of general services, could be consulted in the search and process, due to his in-depth knowledge of infrastructure needs.

In other matters, a finance and a utility committee meeting will be scheduled. Finance Director Annette Williams suggested an in-person or teleconference meeting, since the 2021 budget is due to the Belmont County auditor by July 15. Williams will also check and determine if funds from the city’s Tax Increment Financing fund for the St. Clair Commons can be used to supplement a payment for a past loan for upgrades to the city reservoir.

“I agree, we have to have a finance meeting,” Councilman Mike Smith said.

Options include a teleconference, an in-person meeting with the committee and teleconference available for the public, or holding a teleconference meeting immediately before the next council meeting.

Council President Jim Velas said teleconference council meetings would likely continue to the first meeting of July at least, since state regulations regarding social distancing could not be kept otherwise.

Also, Planning and Zoning Director Tom Murphy reminded residents they must obtain permits prior to starting any construction project.

Councilwoman Linda Jordan reported the playground is open, as is the Memorial Park pool.

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