Water leak costing city thousands

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2003

Nobody likes a leaky faucet that constantly wastes water.

Now, imagine that the faucet leaks 400,000 gallons of water each day and costs an approximately $60,000 extra each year.

Essentially, that is the situation facing the city of Ironton, according to Mark White, part-time superintendent of the city's water treatment plant.

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Clear well No. 1, the concrete water tank that was built in 1917 atop Nixon Hill off of State Route 93, has a crack in it that is draining away money in overtime costs and operating expenses.

According to White's calculations, the city loses about 56.3 percent of the water it produces each month. For example, the city may produce 51 million gallons of treated water but is only billing customers for 22 million gallons.

White recommended to the Ironton City Council Thursday that Pro Diving Service Inc. out of Akron, Ala., be hired to use a resin sealant to repair the crack in the tank.

The company's estimate is $15,316 to have a diver fix the crack would allow the tank to stay in service during the repair. Different from repairs made to the tank in the past, the project would pay for itself in three or four months, White said.

In fact, White said he thinks that the repair would be so beneficial that part of the tank would still be usable even after a new tank installation is completed sometime next year.

"I think that by repairing this basin in this manner you can get five to 10 years use out of it," he said. "Instead of abandoning it completely, it can be modified and you could still get good use out of it."

White said he knows first-hand how reliable this company and these repairs are.

"I know myself, because I work for the city of Portsmouth, that this product works," he said. "I have seen it in action."

To continue discussing the issue, council asked White to attend a finance meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday and to bring a list of former clients of this company.

In other business, council unanimously tabled a resolution that would oppose the Ohio Department of Transportation taking from downtown business owners' property for the purpose of adding landscaping around the proposed location of a new Ironton-Russell Bridge near the intersection of Second and Jefferson streets.

At the last meeting, Mike Haas, the owner of Charlie's Tire Sales Inc. located at 619 S. Second St., said that he was concerned his family may have to sell all of their property between Jefferson and Madison and Second and Third streets to make room for landscaping and a park area, even though the actual bridge would not directly impact all of the property.

When contacted two weeks ago by The Ironton Tribune, ODOT District 9 Deputy Director John F. Hagan said that this plan was just a proposal and that ODOT will wait to purchase the Haas property after the final designs so it can only purchase what is needed.

Council chairman Jesse Roberts said Hagan plans to attend the Nov. 24 meeting to address the issue. Councilman Tordiff said Hagan told him that it was basically a misunderstanding.

Village has a few hours left to make a decision

By Michael Caldwell

The Ironton Tribune

COA LGROVE - Time is running out.

Even with an unexpected delay, the Coal Grove Village Council has just a few hours left to decide how to cut costs in time to make its $47,699 January debt payment.

Council attempted to meet in special session Thursday to adopt a plan, but the meeting was not official because Councilman Randy Wise did not receive notification a full 12 hours prior to the meeting.

The council called another special meeting for 5 p.m. today where it is expected to approve a plan to address the village's financial problems. Concerned citizen Les Boggs and village Clerk/Treasurer Juanita Markel have both offered plans for council to consider.

Council can choose to implement all or part of either plan or come up with its own solutions.

Markel's recommendation calls for immediately laying off four employees - one from the street department and three from the water department - something that she said is long overdue. This would save the village a total of $159,751 in wages and benefits each year.

If overtime was eliminated, Markel's proposal would save the village $85,428 in wages and benefits from the sewer fund that could be used to make water plant repairs, update equipment or keep as a reserve.

In the sewer fund, the village would save $40,249 that Markel said would be perfect for the annual debt service payment so that it would not be an annual problem.

The cuts would also save $34,074 in the street fund that could be used for blacktopping, street and sidewalk repair and more.

Local business owner Boggs approached council at Tuesday's financial workshop and said he could create a plan that could save the village more than $110,000 annually. Though no action could be taken, he was still legally allowed to present his solutions Thursday.

Boggs said is not looking for any personal gain or recognition but just "wants to be part of the solution, not part of the problem." He proposed a plan with three goals - keep job loss minimal, provide adequate public services and generate money to operate the village.

First, he outlined the current state of the village.

In 2001, the village's general fund had $165,000 but spent showed $54,000 more in expenditures than in revenues. This trend continued in 2002, with the general fund having $95,800 more expenditures than revenue.

Currently, the general fund is at $26,000 and would have a hard time making the current payroll for another six months. And this does not even include the debt service payment that is due Jan. 1.

In conjunction with other ways to cut costs and generate revenue, he said the village should lay off one employee immediately and not replace another who is set to retire next year.

If the two jobs were cut, it would save the village $91,600 in salary and benefits each year. He also recommended selling approximately 40 acres of wooded land at the end of Remy Street for $35,000 in one-time revenue.

If the village could find where it is losing 7 million gallons of water each month, it would save at least $15,000 each year.

He also proposed offering village employees a $4,000 annual check to refuse insurance. If just one person opted to do this, the village would save $14,000 each year.

As another part of his solution, Boggs said he is so confident that the village will turn around that he will provide a $25,000 no-interest loan that will be paid back $1,500 per month starting in 2005.

Overall, Markel said that Boggs presented a good plan but that it would not address the problem quickly enough because there is less than two months before the payment is due.

Mayor Tom McKnight did not attend the meeting and was unavailable for comment. He has missed two meetings and Tuesday's workshop since being defeated by Larry McDaniel in last week's election.