City discusses proposed plan for sewer upgrades

Amber Gillenwater

January 9, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — During their first regular meeting of 2014, the Gallipolis City Commission discussed plans for possibly the largest projects that they will be undertaking in the next five years — improvements to the Gallipolis sanitary sewer system.

Gallipolis City Manager Randy Finney reported that he, as well as Project Coordinator Ed Swisher, have been working for the past several months on a plan to submit to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in regard to the city’s plan to correct certain issues that are currently a problem within the city’s sanitary sewer.

“We’ve been working with the EPA about the sewer issues, the overflows we have. We have sanitary overflows. We have them on Chillicothe Road, Portsmouth Road, going into the lift station there,” Finney said. “We’ve had them forever, and we’ve got some coming in off of Spruce Street Extension, and, occasionally, up at the Airport Road — we’ve got some overflows up there.”

The plan Finney submitted for approval to the commission on Tuesday evening, is a five-year plan that includes identifying issues within the sanitary sewer system in 2014 by performing additional smoke testing in the “main city district” starting at Vine Street to Sunset Drive, as well as other areas.

Additionally, Finney reported that within 2014 the plan outlines a $75,000 upgrade to the Spruce Street lift station that will be paid for through the $100,000 in capital improvement funds that will be set aside for the sewer this year as in previous years.

Finney further stated that applications have been submitted to the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) in regard to improvements to the sewer along the streets of Berger, Cruzet and Riverview. Work on this project may begin in late 2014.

Plans are also in place to upgrade sewer pumps at the Silver Bridge Plaza to help handle increased flows, according to Finney.

The city manager also reported that, within the documented plan, along with the major projects at Spruce Street and in the area of Berger and Cruzet Avenues, the city should look toward applying for funding for the areas of Vine Street, Holcomb, Portsmouth, Belmont, Garfield and other problem areas.

According to Finney, funding may be obtained with the help of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).

“They can help us find grants and loans to do some of this, hopefully,” Finney said. “They’ve been very, very helpful on the other projects we’ve been working on with the sewer plant.”

In 2015, the city manager reported that he is projecting that construction on some of the major problem areas within the sanitary sewer could begin — projects that possibly could only be completed with borrowed funds.

“The only way I know to do this is probably just go out and borrow the money to do it. I’d hate to do that, but we’ve got to fix these issues and these problems,” Finney said. “So, we’ve identified, in 2015, the things that we probably ought to go after. A lot of them relate to the Portsmouth Road area or Holcomb Hill. There are a lot of storm drains tied into the sewer up there. We need to separate those out and get the storm water out of the sewer lines, and correct all of those problems up there, so when the waste starts coming in from Green Township we’ll be able to handle that.

“So, we’ve identified that as probably the most important thing we have to do right now,” he said.

Other projects that the city will consider in 2015 will be upgrading various lift stations and correcting issues along Belmont Avenue.

Finney reported that it is projected that, in 2015, the improvements to the sewer could total approximately $1.2 million.

In 2016, the proposed five-year plan outlines that the city will again prepare documents and seek grants and other funding to correct major issues with the sewer in 2017 and 2018.

“The big one comes in 2017-2018 when a lot of these lines have to just be re-lined,” Finney said. “This is nothing abnormal. This happens with any city you talk to. They all have the same issues and problems, but we’re being pushed very hard to correct these issues and fix them. So, I have to put a plan together on what we’re going to do and how we’re going to fix it.”

According to the plan, the total for maintenance and planned projects is $1.9 million in 2017 and approximately $1.3 million in 2018. Overall, the five-year total for possible planned projects and improvements to the city’s sewer is over $6.7 million.

“We don’t really have any options with this,” Finney said. “We’ve talked to [the EPA] and they’ve worked with us. As long we show we are doing something to take care of the issues, they will work with us on this stuff, so we should be okay.”

Commission President Steve Wallis stated that the city should continue to plan ahead and set aside funds in the coming years to help offset the cost of maintenance and improvements to the sewer.

“We have to just keep planning ahead,” Wallis said. “We’ve got to take care of our infrastructure.”

Finney reported that, while the city does set aside the $100,000 each year for miscellaneous improvements to the sewer system, many other municipalities set aside much more than that each year to maintain their sewer systems.

“This is a constant thing you have do to keep upgrades to your system. It’s just something we have to do,” Finney said. “We have issues, it’s as simple as that. It didn’t happen yesterday or the day before, it’s been that way for 30 years, but it’s time to fix it.”