STEUBENVILLE - City officials had what is being described as "a very preliminary conversation" with Mingo Junction officials regarding the possibility of partnering on water treatment and distribution.
City Manager Cathy Davison told the City Council Utilities Committee Tuesday night that she met with Mingo Junction officials "to discuss the idea of regionalizing water distribution in Jefferson County."
That prompted 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto to ask Mayor Domenick Mucci to organize a meeting of Ohio River communities in Jefferson County that produce and distribute potable water.
"This is something I have believed in for a long time. I am in favor of regionalization in our county," added 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich.
Davison later said Ohio Gov. John Kasich has urged communities to explore ways to work together to cut costs for services and at the same time lower expenses.
"The agreement with the Jefferson County commissioners on the creation of a port authority and for the city to treat sewage from Pottery Addition took over a year. And that turned into a win-win for everyone. We had a conversation about ways to provide services and maintain costs. The duty of government is to provide services for constituents and to be efficient," she stated.
Davison also told council members she is waiting for a two-month study by the Neptune Technology Group of Tallassee, Ala., regarding a new water meter system that could allow customers to monitor their water usage and give the city the ability to read meters from a computer in City Hall.
"Neptune is starting an analysis of our meter system and will report back to us in August so we can look at their numbers and information. I will bring you that report and full information after we have it for your consideration," Davison said.
According to Finance Director Alyssa Kerker, Neptune has reported the city has 171 inaccurate meters for larger customers.
"Neptune has several options for meter equipment readings. One option is a 3-inch antenna at every meter that can be read every hour of every day. A second option is software to determine leaks in our water distribution system. Our customers could have more control over their water bills by reading their own meters on their computers," explained Kerker.
"Their proposed system would eliminate the need for meter readers. It also allows us to shut off water to delinquent customers from our utility billing office. And we would be able to eliminate the theft of water," she added.
Kerker said the replacement of the current remote meters in residences and businesses would be paid for by the city.
"That's one reason we are waiting for the Neptune cost analysis. We want to make sure we would be more efficient and save money with their proposed system," Kerker noted.
Davison said the city administration is looking at all options, "except raising rates."
"We will not stop doing what our water department is currently doing to stop water leaks. But at the same time we want to look at the entire picture and see how we can be more cost effective. We also plan to have MWH Constructors look at our filtration plant to determine if improvements can be made in our water distribution system," Davison said.
During a finance committee meeting Tuesday, 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf questioned Davison on shootings in the city.
"I know we have other agencies aiding our police, but is there an opportunity to put more police on street patrol? I know overtime is an issue but do we have an opportunity to do more? We need to get a message out there," Metcalf said.
Davison said City Police are coordinating with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Jefferson County Sheriff's Department to crack down on the shooting incidents.
Davison also asked council to consider changing city laws regarding property maintenance violations.
"I am recommending changing the city code to make high weeds and grass a misdemeanor with a high fine instead of a felony. That will make it easier for Code Enforcement Officer Shawn Scott to cite property owners who aren't maintaining their properties," Davison said.
She also asked council members to consider funding for supervisors for community service workers and the Jefferson County Community Action Council summer youth workers.
"We anticipate receiving 10 to 15 summer youth workers. We also have the community service workers through the Municipal Court. The court has been successful in obtaining grant money to hire supervisors. If they can't continue the grant we need to look at spending about $11,000 to keep the supervisors on the job for an additional 13 weeks," Davison said.
During the brief sunshine meeting, Lalich introduced a resolution to proceed with the placement of a 5-mill real estate levy on the November ballot.
Council approved an initial ordinance authorizing the levy renewal last week after three separate readings.