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City Council backs sewer construction

Water pollution plant renovation OK’d

WARREN — A series of sewer line construction projects and the first phase of renovation for the city’s water pollution control plant have moved forward.

City council on Monday approved four pieces of legislation allowing the city to seek bids for the construction of $32.24 million worth of sewer work.

Councilman Ken MacPherson was the only council member to vote against the projects that include $3.2 million worth of sewer improvements in the areas of Perkins Park, Park Avenue and Franklin Street, as well as providing sanitary sewers for 16 addresses along High Street. The phase one plant and pump station capital improvement plan is expected to cost $29 million before it is completed.

Ed Haller, Water Pollution Control director, said obtaining and accepting the bids for these projects can take, at least, another six weeks to complete.

The projects will be paid for with money obtained from Ohio’s Water Pollution Control Loan fund, according to Haller. The loans have already been approved.

“They will not cost rate payers any additional money, because the city approved a rate increase 10 years ago for capital improvement projects,” Haller said.

MacPherson has been critical of the process, saying there should have been more hearings before council and the public, allowing for questions on which projects are really needed and their costs.

“The public will be able to hear from them and ask questions, but the public will not be able to change the course of the project,” Haller said. “A public meeting was scheduled to take place before Monday’s, but the (coronavirus) pandemic prevented it.”

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, said because the projects have time lines in which they need to be completed, the council needed to vote.

“The questions that most council members had were answered during individual meetings they had with the director,” Rucker said. “We need to push this project forward, so the public will have opportunities to meet with engineers and project managers.”

Councilman John Brown, D-at Large, supported the four legislative pieces because he believes they will address issues that should have been taken care of a long time ago.

“These are things that should’ve been on the table 10 years ago,” Brown said. “Director Haller has already answered all of my questions. There was no reason to delay the votes.”

Because Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered there can be no gathering with more than 10 people in a single room, the meeting took place during a special call held through Warren’s YouTube channel. Council members and other city department heads were in their homes on their phones, while city employee Ed Rust, Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa, Council Clerk Brenda Smith and Graham were in council chambers.

Graham was the only council member who could be seen on camera.

While noting there are kinks still be be worked out, Brown expressed satisfaction with the council’s first online session.

“I’ve been a long proponent of having our meetings available to the public via media,” Brown said. “I would like us to look at other ways we can have meetings online or broadcast even after this pandemic is over and things are back to normal.”

Graham said that would be up to council.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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