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Council hears fiscal report

October 31, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer (dgossett@heraldstaronline,com) , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - City Council learned Tuesday night a major sewer line repair is needed at the east end of University Boulevard and then listened to an educational tutorial on fiscal status for communities facing financial problems.

"We have a very bad section of approximately 1,200 feet of combined sewer pipe about 30 feet deep that runs from the Hampton Inn parking lot to the Seventh Street intersection with University and to the Inland Co. It is made out of block stone and brick and may be more than 100 years old," explained Sewer Department Superintendent Chuck Murphy.

"We plan to have our consulting firm MWH Constructors look at our repair plans before proceeding. We have already contacted National Gunite that did similar work on a sewer at the Steubenville entrance to the Market Street bridge, and the estimated cost of this project is about $860,000," said Murphy.

"We will be able to do the work repairing the combined sanitary and storm sewer underground without digging up the roadway. But we will also have to backfill a void that has been created by the leaking sewer line. If that is not done, there is the possibility of a sinkhole eventually developing in that area," Murphy advised council.

Only one piece of legislation was introduced at the council sunshine meeting after Murphy reported the Bryden Road lift station in the city's West End is in need of emergency repairs.

"There are two pumps at that lift station but only one works. The electrical system is a travesty. If the working pump goes out, we are at risk of pumping sewage into a nearby creek. And the lift station has become a danger for our line crew working on the equipment," Murphy said.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich proposed emergency legislation that will allow the city manager to sign a contract with Buckeye Pumps to immediately repair the lift station at a $60,000 maximum cost.

Murphy also told council members that planned sewer replacement work near the intersection of University Boulevard and Brady Avenue and in McCauslen Manor is tentatively set to begin Monday, weather permitting.

"Initially the contractor had trouble obtaining the replacement pipe and then we had the weather issue. But we hope to make a decision this week to start that project Monday," said Murphy.

He estimated the Brady Avenue job will last three to four days, "and the James White Construction Co. will then take an additional three to four days to replace a section of sewer pipe in the McCauslen Manor area.

In other matters, council listened to a nearly one-hour presentation by Bob Burlenski of the Ohio auditor's office who discussed fiscal caution, fiscal watch and fiscal emergency rules for communities.

"I am not here to sound any extreme alarms. This is just a general educational session because there have been some changes in the state law. I am explaining tools that any community can use to avoid fiscal problems," stated Burlenski.

"Based on conversations with your Finance Director Alyssa Kerker, we felt I could come here to speak on the fiscal watch, caution and emergency. I am not here to say the city is anywhere near fiscal stress or emergency. This is simply a review of the changes in the law," said Burlenski, who then reviewed the fiscal caution, fiscal watch and fiscal emergency policies.

The city's department heads and representatives from the city's three employee unions were in attendance at the meeting.

"I do know the city does a financial forecast and I would encourage that to continue. No one knew three or four years ago that communities would lose the inheritance tax or see local government funding reduced. So it is good to continue forecasting your future financial status on an ongoing basis," explained Burlenski.

"We have a levy renewal on our ballot next week. I don't want our residents or employees mislead by this discussion. This is an educational process for us to understand the changes in the law. We are no where near a fiscal emergency. We are not ready to declare any kind of fiscal issues. We are no where near that," said Mayor Domenick Mucci.

"We are very fortunate to have a very dedicated staff and administration. We are always keeping an eye on the city's general fund and also keep a close eye on our enterprise funds. This was an educational process tonight for us," emphasized Mucci.

"Local governments are struggling with the cuts in state funding and those cuts make it difficult to balance local government budgets. And I want to stress there will be no outsourcing of city services to private companies," Mucci remarked.

City Manager Cathy Davison said she had sent an e-mail to department supervisors and the city's union leaders, "to provide more clarity on our city's finances."

"The more we can sit down to plan for the future, the better we are. It takes all of us to work together.

"It truly takes all of us working together," Davison noted.

(Gossett can be contacted at

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