Grant would help waterline problem area in Niles

NILES — Residents on Summerberry Lane and crews for the city water department have dealt with about 20 waterline breaks since the beginning of the year, but relief may be on the way.

An emergency $300,000 grant requiring a 25 percent match is available from the Ohio Public Works Commission and Niles City Council, in an emergency vote,  authorized the administration to pursue it.

The cost to the city’s water department fund, which is running at a deficit, would be about $74,000, Safety Service Director Jim DePasquale said.

The city’s aging infrastructure has created several waterline problem spots, with breaks around town surpassing 100 this year.

One area is Morningside Drive, where Deidre Compton’s front yard has been torn up several times.

The line in her yard broke in April, twice in July, once in August and again Wednesday.

“The city says they don’t have the money to replace the whole pipe, about 75 feet. Meanwhile, my front yard is constantly tore up,” Compton said. “It’s not their yard, so why should they care?”

Compton said the line in her front yard has broken at least once a year over the 12 years she’s lived there, but problems exploded this year. Crews were putting sleeves on it, Compton said.

DePasquale said a crew replaced a 12-foot section Wednesday and the area could use 100 feet of new pipe. The city is pursuing grants where it can and is looking for a permanent solution in the area, he said.

The expense of the pipelines, along with the placement of nearby utility lines, make Compton’s yard a difficult area, DePasquale said.

When the lines were put in place, a rough backfill was used, causing breaks when the pipes expand, he said.

Each time a waterline breaks, the city incurs costs not only to repair the pipe and maybe for worker overtime, but  to restore the yard above it.

Compton said her front yard doesn’t have time to come back between breaks, leaving a marred look that reduces her property’s value.

Council members also espoused hope more financing to replace aging infrastructure could come from the state Legislature, but nothing concrete has developed.

“The infrastructure in this city hasn’t been addressed in 30 years,” DePasquale said. “We have an infrastructure problem here. It needs to be addressed, and it is very expensive. We need to get on a program replacing line, and that is big money.”

The project on Summerberry Lane could be started before the end of the year, but it is unlikely to be finished before then, DePasquale said.

Even though the water fund is in a deficit, City Auditor Giovanne Merlo said state-appointed fiscal supervisors signed off on the grant match because water is a public welfare project.

The deficit was around $750,000 in August, according to financial documents.

The city has to move fast to get the grant or else the money could be scooped up by another community, DePasquale said.

After the grant is awarded, DePasquale said, the council will have to give him approval to pursue bids for the work. The project also will have to be engineered.

After a contractor is awarded the project, it will take some time for the company to mobilize, but the job can be worked on in the lower temperatures of winter, DePasquale said.