GIRARD Sewer project funding in works

The engineering consultant is recommending $2.72 million in projects.
GIRARD -- Although the city's general fund has been ill, a healthy sewer fund can be tapped to help reduce flooding, Mayor James J. Melfi says.
Last week, Councilman John Moliterno, chairman of the sewer committee, asked that legislation be prepared authorizing engineering work to help eliminate flooding in the Gary Avenue area. Basement flooding in this area was among the worst in the city during the summer thunderstorms.
The area is just one cited by the Painesville engineering consulting firm of Burgess & amp; Niple Inc. that must be addressed to eliminate flooding. Burgess & amp; Niple recommends nearly $2.72 million in sanitary and storm sewer improvements and development of a sewer cleaning program.
Sewer fund status
In 1999, the sewer fund was in the red by $190,000. Since then, it has climbed into the black.
Auditor Sam Zirafi thinks the fund will end this year with a balance of about $400,000. This does not include $219,000 to repay an Ohio Water Development Authority loan in 2004 that has been forgiven and is available to spend.
It does include a 3 percent increase in the sewage rate in 2002, generating about $46,000 annually.
Zirafi noted that the balance could be altered, depending on how much the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city to repair flood damage.
"We feel we'll have a strong balance," Melfi asserted.
The mayor said he wants the engineering work completed on the four projects recommended by Burgess & amp; Niple so construction can get going when money is available.
Raising rates
The mayor said the city doesn't have enough money to pay for the four projects and would need to raise sewer rates to pay for the work.
The city wants FEMA to pay for the projects, with a local share of 12.5 percent, Melfi said. An alternative, he explained, is through state Issue 2 money. That local share, though, would be 30 percent.
As it now stands, the city can't apply for Issue 2 funds because its rate charged to sewer users is too low. Melfi said it's his understanding that the formula may be changed to allow Girard and other communities with low sewer rates to apply for the state funds.
One of the problems with the sewers, the engineering firm pointed out, is their age. They were built in the early 1900s, and the joints have separated.
The lines have been extended to areas for new development and become stressed during wet weather.
It was common practice, the report said, for footer drains at the base of the basement to connect directly to the sanitary sewers. The city discontinued the practice in 1978.
Close lines
Flooding occurs in areas where the sanitary sewer is only 2 to 3 feet deeper than the basement.
The study calls on the city to begin a sanitary sewer line cleaning program. The lines might need cleaning two or three times initially to fully open them. In many instances, grease and debris are partially blocking them.
A third of the lines should be cleaned every year on a rotating basis to reduce basement flooding and employee call-outs, thus lowering overtime costs, it was recommended.

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