Issues with lead water lines in Middleport

By Kayla Hawthorne - Special to the Sentinel

MIDDLEPORT — The Middleport Village Council discussed issues with lead water lines and understaffing in the jail during its meeting on Monday evening.

Village Administrator Joe Woodall told council that occasionally when his department repairs a water line, they discover that the pipe is lead. When they find lead pipes, Woodall and his employees will remove the line and replace it with plastic. However, Woodall believes there are 250 to 300 lead service lines in the village. Woodall said that his goal would be to remove all the lead lines as well as increase the water flow to fire hydrants, all by replacing the current lines with new plastic pipes. Woodall believes that a project of this kind would cost near $4 million. He feels confident that the village would qualify for a loan program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which could allow them to complete the project with zero interest and partial principal forgiveness.

Council unanimously adopted a resolution that allows Woodall and Mayor Sandy Iannarelli to apply for a loan to complete the planning and designing of this project. The design work is estimated to cost around $378,000, but would not require a payment until July 2020. The designs need to be completed before applying for the EPA loan, which is due in March 2020.

Also during the meeting, Jail Administrator and Assistant Police Chief Mony Wood explained the understaffing issues at the jail. Wood said he believes part of the issue is due to the low wages the village is offering to employees. Corrections officers for the jail get paid $9.75, or $10.25 if they get certified, according to Wood. He said people either will not take the job, or they will quit after a few months. Wood said it is a safety concern to not have enough staffing at the jail when they are housing inmates. Currently the jail has 12 inmates, but Wood said he will not keep the jail at full capacity because of understaffing.

“This jail is a high security risk right now,” Wood said.

Wood asked what the police department and council could do about campaigning for the police levy that will be on the November ballot. In 2018, the Village of Middleport placed a levy for “police protection,” but it failed. They are attempting to pass the levy this year. Wood and Iannarelli reminded everyone in attendance that the tax money generated through the levy will be used to pay for corrections officers, dispatchers and police officers, not the chief and assistant chief. The goal for the village is to increase pay wages if the levy passes. In an effort to help campaign for the police protection levy, Woodall said he will use the message space on the water bill to mention the levy importance.

During the meeting, council unanimously voted to adopt the Rates and Amounts Resolution submitted by the county auditor and budget committee. This resolution is adopted every year and allows the village to collect property and levy tax.

In Woodall’s report to council, he said

-Paving will begin on Monday, Sept. 30 on South Third Avenue

-The Village of Pomeroy donated new basketball poles to Middleport. Pomeroy received the poles through a grant, but they are not suitable for their project.

-The village is still waiting for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to move forward with the slip. Woodall reminded the entire project is in the hands of ODOT. The project will continue to take time in order to comply with the federal guidelines. Currently, ODOT is working on acquiring the two properties on Brownell Avenue. The reportedly homeowners have 90 days to review the offer and they still have the right to refuse ODOT’s offer, which will result in more paperwork and waiting for the next steps.

In the mayor’s report to council, Iannarelli asked the solicitor, Rick Hedges, about the senior citizen’s acquiring the small piece of property bordering The Blakeslee Center. The property is owned by the village, which is required to be put out for bids, according to Hedges. Council made a motion to allow Hedges to seek information about how the senior center can obtain the property.

Iannarelli also said Trick-or-Treat is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In the council member updates,

-Carolyn French asked about restricting semi traffic on Leading Creek Road. French said she is afraid that the heavy trucks will ruin the road. However, most of that road is owned by the county and not the village.

-Brian Conde asked about the process and restrictions on abandoning an alley between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street. Conde said a potential buyer of 342 Sixth Street wants the alley closed and possibly build a shed or garage on the space in the future. Woodall said there is a 12-inch sewer line that runs under the alley. Hedges also said he was not sure if abandoning the alley would switch ownership from the village to the owner. The discussion was tabled until more information was obtained.

Council canceled the meeting scheduled for Oct. 14 due to Columbus Day. The next Middleport Village Council meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall on Pearl Street.

By Kayla Hawthorne

Special to the Sentinel

Kayla Hawthorne is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.

Kayla Hawthorne is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.