Marietta asked to support wetlands project

Providing support for an environmental protection project in northeast Ohio will save Marietta an estimated $105,000 on the third phase of the city’s ongoing wastewater treatment plant upgrade, according to a presentation during Wednesday’s water, sewer and sanitation committee meeting.

Chris Szell, director of conservation project management for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and Matthew Hils, professor of biology at Hiram College, asked city council’s support for a wetlands preservation and restoration project of Silver Creek located on property adjacent to the Hiram institution.

“We’ve done two of these Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) projects for the first and second phases of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade,” said city engineer Joe Tucker.

The WRRSP is part of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s revolving loan effort that provides low-interest loan funding for large wastewater treatment projects in communities around the state.

In a conference call during Wednesday’s meeting, Steve Malone with the Ohio EPA Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance explained that cities who are using Ohio EPA loans to fund their wastewater plant projects can have interest on those loans reduced by participating in the WRRSP.

“The program pairs up people who want to sponsor WRRSP with projects designed to protect and restore wetland areas throughout Ohio,” he said. “The program allows sponsors like Marietta to divert some of the interest on their loans to support projects protecting streams, lakes and rivers in the state.”

The city receives a discount on the EPA loan based on the amount of interest that’s diverted to support the wetland project.

Szell said if the city provides support for the Silver Creek protection project by diverting some interest from the approximately $10 million 20-year loan for the upcoming third phase of the wastewater project, Marietta would save $105,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

“We’ve requested $570,000 to be funded through the WRRSP,” he said. “That would allow us to purchase 246 acres of easement from Hiram College to help protect and restore the high-quality stream in the 600-acre Hiram College Silver Creek field station property.”

Tucker noted that the city is already saving $46,690 in interest on the first phase Ohio EPA loan of $5,558,292 by sponsoring a WRRSP project in the Keystone Furnace Wetlands Preserve in Jackson County.

The city is also saving another $73,238 worth of interest on the $6,975,000 loan for the current second phase of the wastewater plant upgrade by agreeing to sponsor a Trumball Wetlands project in Ashtabula and Trumball counties.

“The third phase will be around $10 million or more, although the final cost is yet to be determined,” Tucker said. “The third phase sale date is in December of this year, and will go to bid in 2014, but construction will not begin until 2015.”

The committee members agreed to submit a letter of intent to sponsor the Silver Creek project, which will include passage of a resolution to support the effort through the WRRSP initiative.

In other business Wednesday, a joint session of council’s finance and special utilities committees was asked to develop legislation to fund an overhaul of the city’s current phone system to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system.

The VOIP system would be compatible with existing emergency communications equipment in the police and fire departments and would enhance the city’s overall telephone communications abilities with up-to-date technology, according to Scott Steinel, the city’s hardware and software administrator.

“If we do nothing now, over the next 10 years the city will spend $300,000 on current phone service,” he said.

Steinel said the city could save $85,000 over that same period by purchasing outright a new VOIP system for an estimated $215,000.

Amy Tucker, the city’s wired and wireless networking administrator, added that the city’s current phone system is within five years of becoming totally antiquated.

“It’s just a step above a dial-up phone system,” she said.

The committee members agreed to pursue installation of a new VOIP system in conjunction with the current city hall renovation project. But finance chairman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, asked safety-service director Jonathan Hupp to first contact assistant safety-service director Bill Dauber and report back to the finance committee about the best way to finance the VOIP project.

Also on Wednesday, members of the water, sewer and sanitation committee agreed to develop legislation approving the purchase of a dump truck for the water treatment plant.

Water superintendent Jeff Kephart said the International truck would cost $103,166 from Marietta Truck Sales and Service.