Washington County Commission President Ron Feathers is hoping to meet soon with Marietta City Council to discuss ongoing issues with the Devola sewer project.
Feathers sent letters sent to council, which were addressed at the council's water, sewer and sanitation committee Wednesday. In the letters he states a desire to readdress a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up and signed by commissioners in 2011, that county areas, like Devola, would be hooked into the city sewer system. The sewer system is the reason behind the wastewater treatment plant expansion.
According to Feathers' letter, the timetables in the MOU are too aggressive and are no longer accurate, and he says it should be adjusted accordingly, to a less aggressive schedule.
Feathers said the correspondence never was intended to put a halt to hooking Devola into the sewer system.
"When this (MOU) was written in 2011, (the timetable) was probably pretty realistic," he said. "But when you fast-forward to today, none of (the project) has been completed...I think we should start a discussion of what's more realistic...so our citizens can be reassured."
Feathers said the timeline included two phases in Oak Grove for December 2013 and December 2016, with Devola coming in during December of 2015.
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said Wednesday that he hoped that letter does not mean the county wants to back out of the intergovernmental agreement signed in 2011.
"I voted to increase the size of the sewer plant project because of the agreement with the county," said Vukovic. "I raised the issue (at the committee meeting) only because of the letter."
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said he helped get the original agreement together.
"The dates set are for when we would start to collect sewage into the plant (from the county)," said McCauley. "We'll bill them the same thing we charge the citizens of Marietta."
McCauley said a problem now is that the plant is not bringing the flow in because none of the hookups have happened, except for a part of Devola that has already been a part of the sewer.
Feathers said part of the reason for the county signing the MOU in May 2011 is because of findings and orders from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency saying the sewer in Devola was contaminating water in the community. Commissioners in partnership with the health department gained permission to do their own study, of which 158 Devola residents volunteered.
"(We were) only successful in getting 118 done because of the timeframe (and winter weather)," said Feathers. "We had from November until March of 2014...The (findings) report from the Ohio EPA was very favorable toward the community in regards to failing or totally failed septic systems. The ones that needed a little maintenance or needed pumped out...we identified those."
Despite the good news on the septic systems, Feathers said it is in the cards to move ahead with the sewer project and said the commissioners are not trying to kill the project.
Muskingum Township Trustee Gary Doan said sitting down and really discussing the issue is going to be positive for the citizens of Devola.
"Of course, you have to be in favor of anyone sitting down and making it easier on Devola residents," he said. "It's a hot issue people are either in favor of or people are totally against. As far as (council and commissioners) sitting down, I'm in favor of that myself."
Indeed, McCauley agreed that many residents he has spoken to definitely have mixed feelings and he would be willing to talk to the commissioners about the subject.
While Feathers said he can't force council to meet with him so he can make members aware of Devola's situation and discuss the MOU, he's looking forward to the opportunity for discussion.
"I'm ready anytime, any day, as long as it's not going to interfere with the work I do for the county," he said.