The manager said the city could add about 2,000 residents before infrastructure expansion is needed.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
EAST PALESTINE -- The welcome mat is out.
City Manager Gary Clark said the top priorities on his desk for 2002 are master plans for development of two properties the city owns: a 50-acre site city officials originally purchased as a water well field, and the six-acre former electric plant property.
He said the focus of the mayor and city council over the next 10 years will be to attract new families to East Palestine. City officials plan to do that by marketing the assets the city already has, rather than seeking annexation, he said.
Clark said there are several sites in the city prime for residential growth.
"The trend toward smaller families means growth has to come from new families," Clark said. "New families means new housing. If people see that we are successful, then they'll want to live here."
He said the water and sewer systems could support about 7,000 residents before expansion is required. Population stands about 5,000.
"There's been interest in development all along, but it's been frustrated by our infrastructure," he said.
Sewer improvements: The city is about to bid the fifth phase of major sewer renovations since 1995. Clark estimates the upcoming project, including treatment plant improvements and replacement of sewer lines from Leake Street to the treatment plant, will cost $250,000 to $300,000.
In March 2000, even after nearly $4 million in sewer system improvements had been made, OEPA officials banned major developments, such as housing subdivisions or industrial parks, in the city because the treatment plant was still processing more sewage that the OEPA allows. The main culprit was infiltration of storm water into aging sewer lines.
Satisfied the city is making good progress toward improving its sewer system and reducing infiltration, OEPA officials lifted the development ban in October 2001. Now city officials are able to focus on growth, Clark said.
"We're at this point because the councils and city managers have been diligent to correct these problems," he said.
Clark said city officials originally bought the 50 acres on the west side for a water well field, but later found a better water source near city park, tapping into an aquifer.
Other plans: The light plant property on West Main Street has been dormant since Ohio Edison phased out the system in the 1980s and sold the property back to the city.
"We don't need a six-acre industrial property just sitting there," Clark said.
He said the city owned and operated its own electricity generating facility until 1975, when environmental concerns prompted city officials to sell the operation to Ohio Edison for $3.5 million.
The property has since been dormant, with the buildings used for storage, Clark said. He said city officials plan to develop a small industrial park on the site.