New head of water department plans to revise project priorities

The new chief would like to focus on areas under court order and the upgrade of county facilities.



WARREN — The man chosen last week to head Trumbull County’s water and sewer department said he will refocus the department’s energies on areas of the county under court order to get sewers, and upgrade county facilities such as waste treatment plants.

The dozens of sanitary sewer projects requested by residents in recent years, or those that will be proposed in the future, will be second in priority, said Rex Fee, sanitary engineers’ executive director.

Fee, introduced at a news conference in county Commissioner Paul Heltzel’s office Wednesday, compared the department’s operation in recent years to the plate jugglers who used to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show”: “Sometimes you ignore some of the plates,” he said.

Fee said the number of county residents wanting sewer lines built by his department has grown by a large amount in recent years because of the county’s problems with failed septic tanks. That, however, doesn’t mean the department should endlessly add projects to its workload unless these can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

Fee, longtime assistant sanitary engineer under former sanitary engineers Tom Holloway and Gary Newbrough, said only those petition projects that can be added to an existing sewage collection system with a standard 8-inch pipe will get the kind of attention Newbrough gave to practically all petition projects in the past.

In a meeting that Heltzel had with managers from the department last month, some said that under Newbrough, many petition projects were considered, partially worked on, but then put on a long list to wait their turn.

Lower priority

Fee said he believes his department will need to lower the priority of petition projects that are a great distance from a nearby system.

Fee said people who have moved out to the country to get away from the city will have to realize that sewers for them might not be possible in a short time frame, even if they submit petitions for one.

County commissioners last week reassigned Newbrough to a new position called sanitary engineering planner and promoted Fee. Scott Verner was appointed interim sanitary engineer because he holds a professional engineer’s license, something required by state law for a sanitary engineer but which Fee does not have.

As for the court-ordered projects, the county agreed in January to build sewers in 10 areas of the county in 15 years. The agreement was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2002 by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency against the county health department and the commissioners for failing to protect the environment from the waste coming out of failing septic systems.

The 10 areas include the Lakeshore Drive area in Bazetta Township, the Scott Street area in Newton Township and the Meadowbrook area of Warren Township. County officials have applied for numerous grants to help with the cost of the projects.

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