GALLIPOLIS — Holzer Health System representatives approached Gallipolis City Commission Tuesday evening with the hope of persuading officials to allow the organization to place a meter system in a new cooling tower construction for Holzer Medical Center with the aim of reducing utility costs.
Holzer representatives said the cooling tower utilizes water evaporation to help remove heat from its internal systems on the Gallipolis campus.
Holzer Medical Center, located on Jackson Pike and informally found in what has been called the Spring Valley area, consumes around 22,800,000 gallons of water and spends roughly $264,427 on water and sewer charges annually.
“The whole point of the deduct meter is to alleviate sewage charges on water that isn’t being pumped back into the sewage system,” said Lee Adamcik, a project developer and energy engineer with heat and air conditioning company, Trane.
Holzer seeks to replace 1969 cooling towers with new, more efficient models.
“If we’re allowed to put this deduct meter on the cooling tower,” said Matthew Dean, Trane account manager,” our savings for the hospital will be around ($40,000 to $45,000) a year. The intent of the project isn’t just to save money for the sake of saving money. Holzer is a nonprofit organization that serves this community. So, $40,000 could be another nurse or more beds or could be any number of things that go back into serving this community…We understand we’re pulling $40,000 out of utility costs for Holzer that would normally go to the city, but it’s really going back into the hospital that serves the community as a whole.”
“I commend you for trying to save money for your (organization),” said Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene. “That’s my job on this side of the fence (being a city representative). We have maintenance men in the area out there that we spend about 50 percent of the time outside the city limits maintaining the water and sewer in that area. That costs us money. You talk about $40,000 for a nurse. That will probably get me two maintenance men, at least one and a half. I can use the money. If the deduct meter is in for Holzer, I imagine you won’t be the only one that wants that. You’re going to have other plants in and around town asking for the same thing and rightly so…and even private individuals. That could snowball into something we lose a lot of revenue on.”
Gallipolis has reportedly a little less than 10 maintenance workers.
“The city, as well as other towns and cities, are looking for ways to replace aging infrastructure like something between the seven and $8 million sewer plant we finished and are still paying on and will be for years to come,” continued Greene. “So, our sewer fund is actually running low.”
County sewer construction projects in Kanauga and Addison villages, as well as Green Township, are expected to be connected with the new wastewater treatment plant that was completed in 2016. The Gallia County government has an arrangement with Gallipolis government to treat its wastewater in these areas, but the entire sewer line system construction has yet to be completed and so the city is not receiving money for uncompleted wastewater routes yet.
According to City Auditor and Clerk Annette Landers, the city has roughly $470,000 in sewer debt service for the year. Most of the debt reportedly is from the creation of the new Gallipolis Wastewater Plant. Last year, the city collected $1.7 million in wastewater revenue. The Gallipolis City Commission budgeted $8.4 million to the project in March 2015 using a variety of low-interest loans and grants received with help from the Ohio Water Development Authority.
“In time, that area out there in Spring Valley is going to require a lot of maintenance on that sewer line because it’s clay tile and 20 foot deep. I have nothing to reach that. That’s contractor work. So that will cost (the city) money,” said Greene. “Last of all, in that area, you’re getting the best of service and if we give you a discount price, why would you ever want to be inside the city limits? Which leads to this, on your hospital alone, not your cancer center or other meters, just the hospital, last month if you had been inside city limits, you would have saved $5,600 on your water bill. I can’t see letting you go in and the city losing revenue, especially with an aging infrastructure which we’ve all sat on this board and talked about last summer when we had sinkholes and no money to (repair) them…I commend you for trying to save money, but at the same time, I don’t see an advantage to the city because that’s our business to sell water. You talk about your 2,200 employees, if you were in the city limits, I’d be collecting one percent (income tax) and that’s where we could make some money.”
Gallipolis City Commission has long voiced concern with budget woes and a lack of funding for first response services or to replace an aging infrastructure. Commissioners voiced an interest in gauging public opinion at the possible annexation of the Spring Valley region in late 2018 into municipal limits, in part to collect a one percent income tax in the region, and also to attract area residents to utilize reduced utility costs and to reportedly further area economic development.
City Commissioner Steven Wallis voiced that the commission would need to discuss the issue further. Commissioner Beau Sang said he would like to see some kind of compromise reached with the healthcare organization. Commissioner Cody Caldwell said he would abstain from any decisions made as he is an employee of the health system.
Holzer Health System Director of Facilities and Security Morgan Saunders said ideally the health system wants to remain a patron of the city’s services and come to an arrangement but could investigate other options to reach its goals. He asked if the commission could provide an answer within a week so as to not fall behind project deadlines.
No decisions were made by the commission at the meeting. Commissioners said they would provide the health system with an answer as soon as possible.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.