$400,000 grant for sewer work an option for county

By Sam Shawver

Special to the Times

Washington County is not currently seeking another $400,000 grant to help sewer the communities of Devola and Oak Grove, although that’s an option as mediation efforts continue between the county and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency next week.

During Thursday’s county commission meeting, Devola resident Glen Pawloski expressed concern that the county may be planning to apply for a total of three $400,000 grants to help fund a possible three-phase sewering of Devola and Oak Grove.

“It gives the appearance that Devola households want this,” Pawloski said. “We don’t want the government to help us.”

He said a cost/benefit analysis should be conducted before the county agrees to install install a sewer system as ordered by the Ohio EPA in 2012.

Pawloski has been outspoken in his opposition to sewering the communities, which would require residents currently on septic systems to connect into the sewer infrastructure. He has said that would be costly and puts an unfair burden on homeowners.

Commissioner David White said Pawloski’s comment was based on an Oct. 12 Marietta Times article in which White mentioned the possibility of obtaining a $400,000 grant if sewering of the communities is required.

“When we go into mediation, everything has to be put on the table,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean any of those things are being done.”

In the Times article White expressed hope that a mediation session Tuesday with the Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General’s Office might result in a new timeline for the sewering project that could allow the work to be “incrementalized” into three sections.

If mediation efforts fail, the county could face lawsuits from the Ohio EPA and the city of Marietta in relation to the county’s delay in sewering Devola and Oak Grove.

A 2011 intergovernmental agreement between Marietta and Washington County, signed by the three commissioners who were then in office, indicated that the county would kick in funding to help with expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The city constructed extra capacity at the wastewater plant to handle expected additional sewage from the Devola and Oak Grove areas. The county would pay for its portion of the project by billing residents for the sewer service.

A portion of Devola was placed on a sewer system several years ago after the community’s wastewater package plant failed.

Commission President Ron Feathers said Thursday that if a suit is filed, the county could end up having no choice but to build the rest of the sewer system.

“If it goes to court and they sue us and we lose, you will get sewered,” he told Pawloski. “And I suspect a court order will come.”

Feathers said the commissioners would only be practicing “due diligence” by considering the possibility of grant funding for the sewer system if it is needed. He said at best the county could potentially receive the three grants over a five-year period.

“But no one is dangling money out there (to have the sewer system installed) and we are not capitulating to anyone,” Feathers said. “If the Ohio EPA would offer to cover everything, then yes, we would take all of the infrastructure funding we could get.”

In other business, the commissioners approved $8,000 to purchase a dog for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“It will be a narcotics dog,” said Sheriff Larry Mincks. “And we are expecting to be reimbursed for that cost from a local organization that may want to remain anonymous at this time.”

The sheriff’s office also has two other K9 units, including a narcotics dog and a bomb tracking dog.

County commission clerk Rick Peoples noted the animal purchase approved by the commissioners Thursday included a $2,000 discount because the dog is a couple years old.

What’s ahead

¯ The Washington County Commissioners’ next regular public meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the commission meeting room at the county courthouse annex on Putnam Street.

¯ All commission meetings, except executive sessions, are open to the public.

¯ The county courthouse will be closed Nov. 10 for Veterans Day.