Getting It Right In St. Clairsville

Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it may be a wise investment for St. Clairsville City Council.

Disagreement over what to do about the municipal water system has divided council, and many residents of the community, for some time. It is obvious major repairs and improvements are needed.

Mayor Terry Pugh, Safety and Service Director Jim Zucal and some members of council favor selling the water system. It is expected a bid for purchase, from Aqua Ohio, will be ready for consideration by council’s Sept. 16 meeting.

But some council members, along with a substantial number of St. Clairsville residents, want the city to retain ownership and find ways to pay for the needed work.

During a meeting last week, Councilwoman Beth Oprisch said she will prepare a resolution calling for an outside study of water service, including information on options for the future.

Neither Pugh nor Zucal liked the idea. “It’s just stalling tactics,” said the mayor.

“They’ve been well-informed,” Zucal said of council members.

Indeed, the controversy has dragged on for some time. But many — not just a few — people still are not convinced the Aqua Ohio approach is best. During last week’s meeting, council members heard a presentation about the potential to obtain loans by which the city could pay for necessary water system upgrades.

Both to obtain more information and to address complaints city leaders made up their minds in favor of Aqua Ohio many months ago, a new study may be good idea.

It is estimated a study would cost between $10,000 and $20,000 and take about 90 days to complete. Given the stakes in this decision, that seems little enough in both time and money for council to invest in the process of making a decision on the future of St. Clairsville’s water system — and customers who rely on it.

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