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City Eyes Bailout Fund for Sewer Projects | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo by Eric Ayres Wheeling Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis, chairman of the council’s public works committee, left, and city manager Robert Herron attend a meeting of the public works committee on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of using part funding from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act stormwater and sanitary sewer projects.

WHEELING — City of Wheeling officials began discussing potential stormwater and sanitary sewer projects on Wednesday that could be done using money from the U.S. Bailout Act allocation. the city.

Members of the Wheeling City Council Public Works Committee met Wednesday afternoon to discuss priority projects that could move forward if the city uses some of the federal pandemic relief money. The city had received total funding of approximately $29.5 million in ARPA funding, and while there are strict criteria for its use, projects that qualify as water, sewer, and Broadband infrastructure meets one of the key criteria for this one-time pool of federal funding.

Public Works Committee Chairman Jerry Sklavounakis was joined in Wednesday’s meeting by fellow councilmen Ben Seidler, committee vice-chairman, and committee member Ty Thorngate, as well as City Manager Robert Herron and City Clerk Brenda J. Delbert.

Also present at the meeting were Russell Jebbia, Director of Public Works for Wheeling, Andy Harris, Superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Division, Joe Smith, Coordinator for Wheeling Stormwater, and William Martt of CT Consultants.

The city of Wheeling has approximately $280 million in sewer improvement projects that are part of its long-term water pollution control plan, an ongoing effort to modernize the city’s aging system and address the environmental mandates over a period of approximately 20 years. City officials agreed that even if all of the city’s ARPA funds were to be used for sanitary sewer and stormwater improvement projects, it would hardly harm the city’s overall long-term needs.

However, infrastructure investments remained a high priority for city council members, and since investments in sewer projects are eligible for pandemic relief funds, officials have begun to explore the options available in regarding the long list of pending projects.

“What we are looking for is the best value for money,” Sklavounakis said. “That’s what makes the most sense.”

Jebbia reviewed several pending projects that are currently needed but not funded at this point, such as replacing failing corrugated iron pipes installed decades ago in several neighborhoods.

The city has bonds in place to address the current phases of the long-term water pollution control plan, which includes a myriad of projects that include major separations of sanitary sewer and stormwater lines. Wheeling’s aging underground infrastructure had many—and still has many—areas with combined sewer lines, with sewage flowing into the sanitary sewer system.

Due to environmental regulations, the city had to eliminate combined sewage overflows or CSOs in Wheeling neighborhoods. With CSOs not in place, raw sewage is not redirected to streams, streams and ultimately the river. However, heavy rains have often led to problems in some neighborhoods, with overloaded pipes causing sewage to back up into the basements of many residents.

The long-term control plan involves numerous sewer separations, which in most cases involves the creation of a new storm sewer system to carry rainwater away from the sanitary sewer systems to reduce load.

While bond money has been targeted for control plan projects, costs for those projects — like other construction jobs hit by supply chain issues and the sagging economy — are starting to mount. sharply.

City officials have explored the possibility of using ARPA funds to cover additional costs that go beyond budgeted allocations for upcoming long-range control plan projects. System improvements in many neighborhoods could have a big impact with better stormwater management, officials noted, but most of these individual projects typically come at a steep price.

“If we could collect a lot of storm water and drain it away, we can eliminate a lot of problems,” Jebbia said.

Jebbia reviewed several proposed stormwater management projects in neighborhoods across the city, from Warwood to Wheeling Island, South Wheeling and other parts of the city.

“There are a lot of problems in South Wheeling,” Jebbia noted, outlining proposals for stormwater collection improvements along 22nd Street, 38th Street and 40th Street, each of which expected to cost around $1 million.

City leaders reviewed a list of Water Pollution Control Division Phase III-B projects that have been proposed for ARPA funding. They included the Civic Center Drain Replacement Project, sewer improvements from Bedillion Lane to Carmel Road to North Park, and works along the trunk road from Seibert Street to Edgington Lane, Lynwood Avenue to Edgington Lane, sewage treatment plant upgrades, interceptor cleaning and general system. improvements and planning.

The total cost of those projects approached $10 million, but Harris said the price of each in today’s construction environment is likely higher. A major Warwood Interceptor upgrade project was originally listed as a $3.2 million project, but Harris said the scope of the project combined with high construction costs would likely put this project at $8-10 million. today.

“It turned into a major project,” Harris said. “It’s woefully undersized for this type of flow.”

Jebbia added: “These numbers are only an approximation. Right now the numbers are skyrocketing. »

Committee members did not move to make a recommendation to the board, noting that these were preliminary discussions regarding these vital projects. Regardless of whether or not ARPA funds will be used to advance some of these projects, officials noted that they will eventually need to be completed in some way.

City leaders had been collecting suggestions from the public through late April on how the city should spend its ARPA funding allocation. City leaders are also expected to discuss their own proposals, and the projects should at least be implemented in the coming months, as federal funding must be spent before the end of 2024.

In addition to infrastructure investments, ARPA funding can be used to provide a bounty to essential workers, address the far-reaching negative economic and public health impacts of the pandemic, and replace lost public sector revenue, according to US Treasury Department guidelines.

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