Farson St. project gets fast OK by Belpre Council

BELPRE – City council suspended the rules and passed multiple readings of legislation Monday to approve the final resolution regarding construction work on Farson Street.

All members of council in attendance approved all three readings of the resolution to allow the Ohio Department of Transportation to start the last project to allow the roadways to better handle expected traffic near the new Marietta Memorial Hospital Health Bridge Medical Park on Farson Street just off U.S. 50/Ohio 7. Councilmen Larry Martin, 1st Ward, and Eric Sinnett, 3rd Ward, were not in attendance for the vote.

“This is the final approval we needed to give so ODOT can begin work,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz.

This last project will widen Farson Street between Washington Boulevard and U.S. 50/Ohio 7 to add a center turn lane and eventually make travel to the medical plaza easier.

Lorentz said he is not certain when the work will begin, but expects it to be this summer.

The first part of the road construction was completed in November with the expansion of the left turn lanes of Ohio 7/U.S. 50 at the intersections of Braun Road and Farson Street.

In other business

Fred Holmes and Chris Munn with Volunteer Energy Services, the company the city chose to partner with for natural gas and electric aggregation, spoke to council about the steps to begin the natural gas aggregation program.

Last August the city’s electric aggregation program, provided by DPL Energy Resources and organized by Volunteer Energy, began.

“If we had done both programs at the same time, residents would have been very, very confused,” said Holmes. “By doing this now, we have plenty of time to get the program up and running before heating season begins.”

According to state requirements, two public hearings on the program will be held at 7 p.m. June 10 and 24 in council chambers with either Holmes or Munn in attendance to answer questions.

City auditor Leslie Pittenger reminded Holmes, who has been working with the city on the aggregation since 2011, the beginning of the electric program did not go smoothly.

“The electric did not go as easily as it should have because the letter confused people and the phone number that was on the letter was disconnected,” Pittenger said. “It left a really bad taste in people’s mouth, so I don’t think this gas will run as smoothly as you think.”

Holmes said because Volunteer Energy is the supplier of the natural gas without another company in the mix, there should be few problems.

“Because residents will be calling Volunteer Energy directly, this will run much more smoothly, I guarantee it,” he said.

Once the public hearings have occurred and council has passed all three readings of the legislation, the project will go to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for approval. Once that is given, the city can begin signing people up.

The rate for the natural gas will be the New York Mercantile Exchange price plus 60 cents per 1,000 cubic foot.

In November 2011, Belpre voters passed the opt-out programs, which have the potential to save residents money if they choose to go with the city for these bills.

Pittenger said the city has hired a company to take care of the water bills. The new bills will come in an envelope, be color-coded by sections and include a return envelope for those who send payments in.

This will begin the first billing in June with no change to the billing cycle.