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Many questions were able to be addressed

Photo by Michele Newbanks Jared Love, WSP Ohio office lead, and Rich Wischmann, WSP lead engineer, plan which houses to visit Thursday morning in Devola. They were in town speaking to Devola residents about questions they had regarding the Devola sewer project.

Two members of the engineering firm for the Devola sewer project visited the area this week to discuss questions or concerns residents had.

Rich Wischmann, WSP Inc. lead engineer, and Jared Love, WSP Ohio office lead, went door-to-door in order to speak to each homeowner.

History

¯ The project has been in various stages of planning for at least seven years. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency ordered the project done in 2012 due to high levels of nitrates in well water. The Washington County Commissioners at the time voted not to follow the order, which led to the Ohio EPA suing the county. The original court order required the county to provide sewerage connections to homes on Lawton Road by the end of 2020, with the remainder of the community to be connected by 2025.

¯ The project will affect homeowners from Ohio 60 to Masonic Park Road, to Magnum Magnetics to the Devola Volunteer Fire Department, along Devols Dam Road down to the River Road, per the court order from the Ohio EPA. It does not include River Road or the fire house.

The first step in the project was taken November 2019, when the general plan was submitted to the OEPA, which was approved in June 2020.

¯ The all-terrain septic system was chosen by the Washington County Commission, which will include grinder pump stations at each residence.

The engineer’s opinion of the probable cost was $12 million, Wischmann said..

What’s Next

¯ Right of entry agreements have been sent to homeowners and many have been returned signed.

Wischmann said the right of entry agreements for the project will allow the contractor to come onto the property.

“It is a document that allows the contractor access to the property and to the house to do the work,” he explained.

The agreements will not be recorded, so it is more of a finalized handshake agreement between the county and the property owner, Wischmann noted.

“We have sent final plans to EPA, and we are anticipating receipt of our permit to install application in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “That is our large milestone hurdle that we’ve been trying to push for since last year.”

¯ The engineer said during Thursday’s meeting of the Washington County Board of Commissioners that WSP will await their decision on how to go forward as far as timing of the bid

“We will be ready to go to bid when you are ready to actually go advertise and move forward,” Wischmann said. “So, everything is moving pretty pretty well. I’m happy with the current state of the project.”

¯ Residents questioned the right of way agreements. They questioned why the contractor would need to be in their homes.

“The reason we’re asking to get into the house is there has to be an electrical connection from the pump to their entrance panel,” Wischmann explained.

He and Love received one of three responses from homeowners. They would talk to the engineers; they would say they weren’t necessarily happy with the project, but they understood Wischmann and Love had jobs to do; or they would tell the engineers to get off their property.

“We’ve had people basically slam the door in our face and said ‘get off the property, we don’t want to talk,'” he said. “We have had those, but they’re in the minority.”

What questions needed answered?

¯ Commissioner Charlie Schilling said at a recent board meeting that he has spoken with Ohio Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, and John Carey, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, for help with possible funding.

Schilling noted Gov. Mike DeWine recently discussed the biennial budget, which proposed $100 million for two-year projects like the Devola sewer. There is a stipulation that the funding be for city populations under 75,000.

The commissioner said up to $2.5 million could be available per project.

“That’s what Mr. Schilling and I were just talking about. We had a lady that called and kept saying ‘I want to know the cost,'” Wischmann explained. “Quite simply, we don’t know the cost. We have an engineer’s estimate for what the project is going to cost. That trickles down to, so we have an opinion and cost on the total project.”

He said any grant money would reduce the cost straight off the top.

“There’s a lot of pieces involved, of how that’s going to break down. And so we don’t really know is the final answer,” Wischmann said.

¯ “So the commissioners are wanting to pause a little bit to make sure that they can get any of that free money that’s out there,” he responded. “The original schedule that’s set out says we need to bid sometime in the late spring or early summer.”

The general plan sent to the Ohio EPA a year and a half ago said that three years would be needed to get the project done with one year being spent to design.

“That clock started last June, so that’s why I want to have a contractor on board by the end of the summer,” Wischmann acknowledged. “That way we’re still on for basically a two-year construction.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com

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