Aug 12, 2023

Introductory meeting held for revived public utilities board

Aug 31, 2023

Bill Cowan, Tim Swogger and Raymond Sullivan conduct the introductory meeting of the revived public utilities board in East Liverpool. (Photo by Kristi R. Garabrandt)

EAST LIVERPOOL — The East Liverpool Board of Public Utilities held an introductory meeting in Council Chambers Tuesday.

The first order of business was the introduction of board members Bill Cowan, Tim Swogger and Raymond Sullivan.

Water Superintendent Paul McCarthy addressed the board with a report on the city’s water plant. McCarthy estimated there were an approximate 5,200 accounts (customers) with the plant.

McCarthy discussed with the board members the process involved in identifying lead lined pipes.

There were two new actuators installed at the plant. Three 4-inch surface wash valves were discovered to be damaged due to the pressure reducing valve.

McCarthy gave the board a quote he had received for $15,740 from Roberts Filters to remove, install and do a surface wash at the water treatment plant which is currently not working on all six filters. He also noted that if any of the pumps were to go, he believes everything would have to be machined.

“We are at the point now, the age of them, so these are some things that are coming down the pike here,” he said.

McCarthy said he would provide a prioritized list to the board members based on what they see as the plant needs and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations.

McCarthy also noted that this was obviously not going to get done all at one time, but they could prioritize and start working on the needed improvements one at a time. The main concern is the intake line.

There is an asset management plan for the plant which was put into effect in 2019 as a requirement to identify short- and long-term assets and that the city puts money away so that when a pump blows up there is money there. According to the plan, the city and the plant have approximately $90 million in assets counting tanks, pumps and intake.

“The plant is old and it’s starting to show its age,” McCarthy said.

Acting Wastewater Superintendent Dave Freeman told the board members that the new permit which they receive every five years has been signed and is now in process and the storm water pollution prevention plan has also been signed and changes have been submitted and they are now in the process of getting new discharge limits for industrial customers.

Some permits are more stringent, and some are less stringent, but most of them remain the same, according to Freeman.

The wastewater plant does not have an asset management plan but McCarthy anticipates one being done within the next several years.

The EPA came in back in July and did a full audit on the plant and sent their recommendations. The main concern is the upgrades.

According to Freeman, they are in the process of working on some of those upgrades.

“We are keeping our heads above water,” Freeman said. “We have repairs that we need to be making but some of those things are included in the upgrades.”

There are ongoing conversations over other repairs. A prioritized list of repairs will be sent to the board members.

The plant currently has four operators. They do not have a utility operator because the person fills Freeman’s position while he serves as acting superintendent.

The plant has been short staffed since September of 2021.

Board members asked how aggressively the city has been looking for a superintendent.

McCarty said they have been looking but believes lower wages have been an issue in filling positions. He also believes there is going to come a time when the EPA requires that position be filled, and they are going to have to find a way to offer a competitive wage.

Currently the wastewater plant does not have any EPA violations.

Sullivan expressed an interest in touring both plants.

The board members discussed filling the director of utilities position to have that person in place to be a point between the board and council. City finances are an issue in hiring someone to fill that position. They would like to have the auditor present at the next meeting to discuss the finances to see if it’s possible.

Council member Fred Rayl attended the meeting and told the board members that he thinks the biggest issue they have before them is that according to the asset management plan for the water plant the recommendations are there for several water rate increases which have not been put into effect. He believes that is part of the reason why they can’t pay more for operators. He also noted that it would be a very important step to name a utility director in the near future.

The board has established the third Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. as its designated meeting time. The board will meet in council chambers at city hall. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 21.

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