Schiavoni bill would provide funding for water, sewer system upgrades


By Marc Kovac

news@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

State senators had their first hearing Tuesday on a billion-dollar proposal to help local communities update their water and sewer systems.

Senate Joint Resolution 3 was offered by Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, as a way to generate about $100 million annually over a decade for infrastructure improvements.

“This resolution is not the entire solution to our underground infrastructure needs, but it would be a significant step in the right direction,” Schiavoni told the Senate Finance Committee. “The passage of SJR 3 could be the difference in how quickly projects can move forward and the timetable in which they are completed. In addition, it will create thousands of jobs and improve economic opportunities for the people of Ohio.”

The resolution would be comparable to the state’s public-works program. Voters two years ago approved nearly $1.9 billion in bonding for roads, bridges and other projects through that program.

If approved by lawmakers, SJR 3 would be placed on the ballot, with voters having the final say.

Schiavoni introduced the bond resolution after E. coli issues at Mill Creek MetroParks traced to combined sewer overflows from an aged sewer system.

Youngstown officials already have long-term plans for dealing with that and other water and sewer issues, with $147 million in projects outlined over a 20-year period.

“With the lack of sufficient resources both locally and federally, our communities are often faced with the insurmountable task of maintaining and upgrading a vast network of deteriorating underground infrastructure,” Schiavoni said. “Therefore, it is necessary for the state to make this crucial investment to protect the health and well-being of Ohioans.”

Schiavoni said the bond issue is focused on publicly owned water and sewer systems. As written currently, it wouldn’t cover infrastructure on private properties, including pipes connecting residences in Sebring that are linked to lead issues in that community.

Schiavoni said he is having discussions to potentially amend the bond language to include grants or other financial assistance for home-owners.

SJR 3 has bipartisan support, and other groups also have called for a bond issue to support water and sewer improvements. Gov. John Kasich is not supportive, though his signature would not be required to place the issue before voters.

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