City Council Expresses Support For County’s Sanitary Sewer Extension Proposal

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It appears the city of Athens will contract with the county to expand sanitary sewer service to about 1,500 households and businesses in subdivisions along Route 50W.

During Athens City Council’s meeting Tuesday, Councilwoman Chris Fahl said that a contract will be presented to the full Council soon to get the project moving.

The Athens County Commissioners approached City Council in September about using the city’s wastewater treatment plant for the project. At that time, the commissioners asked Council to authorize the city administration to enter into negotiations for the estimated $20.06 million project. However, Fahl and other members of Council said they had too many questions to do so.

In October, an ad hoc committee was formed to discuss the project. The committee included representatives from the county, as well as Fahl, Councilwoman Chris Knisely, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, Athens Service-Safety Director Paula Horan Moseley and City Planner Paul Logue.

On Tuesday, Fahl admitted that she was the project’s biggest skeptic, especially in terms of how the project will impact the city’s operations and budget. She said that after months of hashing out the issue with the county, she feels much more comfortable in moving forward with the project.

“Paul Logue and I had most of our concerns and worst-case scenarios answered,” Fahl said.

The sanitary sewer extension project would provide approximately 1,500 households with sanitary sewer along the corridor south of Athens to Radford Road. The proposed project is not a new one, as there have been discussions about it since the mid-1990s.

The county sponsored a feasibility study for the project in 1997, but cost was an issue at the time. The project was estimated to cost about $6 million in 1997. The study was updated in 2010, with a new cost estimate of about $20.06 million.

As The Messenger previously reported, the county’s consultant for the project, Jennifer Frommer, said that environmental conditions along the 3.5-mile corridor are one of the main reasons for the project.

Fahl said that faulty septic systems have caught the attention of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, as pollution of Margaret Creek is suspected. She said the creek feeds into the Hocking River.

Frommer has reported that it’s estimated that the households along the corridor would generate on average 500,000 million gallons a day of sewage, which would be treated at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant is undergoing major upgrades and Fahl said that Andy Stone, the director of the city’s engineering and public works department, says the plant will be able to handle the additional volume.

When exploring the project, the county looked at three possible scenarios for sewage treatment. Those scenarios included building a new sewage plant, utilizing the county-owned plant in The Plains or connecting to the city of Athens’ wastewater treatment plant. Frommer said the third option was the most economical.

Fahl told The Messenger that consultants are currently drawing up a contract between the city and the county for the project. She said there may be additional negotiation about the project before the contract is finalized between the county and city.

She said the city is expected to meet with the county sometime next week to continue discussions.

On Wednesday, Athens County Commission President Lenny Eliason said he hopes the contract can be in place so that funding can be sought for the project this fall. If that happens, Eliason said the project is still two to four years down the road.

Eliason said additional design work would need to be done in order to show the affected parties along the corridor. He said there will also be public hearings.

The county had hoped that the city would agree to three phases of the project that would not only extend sanitary sewer to the 1,500 households, but also to adjacent areas from Radford Road to where Albany’s public sewer system begins. However, Fahl said the city is only looking to move forward with Phase I at this time.

Eliason said if the project moves forward, residents along the corridor will be required to tap into the new system. He said the county is looking to make the project affordable for residents with a monthly sewage bill in the range of $45-$55.