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Village Council— How fast to move on water sourcing?

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An ongoing discussion on the sourcing of Yellow Springs water continued at Village Council’s April 1 meeting, with Council President Judith Hempfling suggesting that more time is needed to decide how best to source local water. At issue is whether, in light of the Village’s aging water plant, the Village should contract with the City of Springfield for water, construct a new plant or refurbish the existing plant.

The issue was discussion only, and the discussion will continue at Council’s April 15 meeting. According to Village Manager Laura Curliss, Council should make a decision by the end of May due to deadlines for grant proposals for funding the project.

However, that timeline seemed too rushed to Hempfling.

“My concern is that it’s a big decision,” Hempfling said. “Once we apply for grants we’re going down the road. Making the decision in a month doesn’t feel like enough time.”

At the meeting, Hempfling and Council member Lori Askeland expressed concern that a memo from Curliss only addressed two of the three options for water sourcing, contracting with Springfield and building a new water plant. The third option, that of refurbishing the plant, was the least expensive option presented to Council a year ago by engineer John Eastman, who conducted a feasibility study in 2011 on the water sourcing options. Council had originally intended to address the water sourcing issue last year, following the study, but the issue was postponed until now.

According to Curliss, she did not include the plant renovation option in Council’s choices because in a recent visit to the plant, Ohio EPA officials stated that the plant would need to be taken offline during the renovation, and that option does not seem feasible.

Hempfling requested that Eastman attend the April 15 Council meeting to clarify the plant renovation option.

Villager Vickie Hennessy of Green Environmental Coalition spoke at the meeting to express concerns about sourcing water from Springfield, which is the least expensive option. Hennessy agreed that the issue is complex and could use further study, due to what she perceives as many unknowns regarding the quality of Springfield water. Environmental concerns regarding the water include how vulnerable the Springfield aquifer is to infiltration from the Mad River, which, running through an urban area, has the potential to carry pollutants. Also of concern is the proximity to the Springfield aquifer of the Tremont landfill, which contains more than 50,000 barrels of contaminants and is leaking, along with a salt spill north of Springfield. (See article on page 1.)

“It’s complicated,” Hennessy said. “It will take a long time to get to the crux of it.”

If Council chooses to postpone the decision for another year, the solution to the Village’s current water sourcing problem won’t take place until summer of 2015 due to the grant funding cycle, Curliss said. If Council decides by the end of May, construction will begin summer 2014.

Hempfling also noted that when she asked Village Superintendent of Water Joe Bates if the Village could wait to make the water sourcing decision, he stated the plant currently faces a significant issue in rusty bolts on some water pipes, which could at some unforeseen time cause the plant to shut down. Even if the Village moves ahead this year with the water sourcing decision, Hempfling expressed concern about having a year and a half long wait before a new option would be operable.

In an interview this week, Bates said he is very concerned about the possibility of the rusty bolts breaking, which could lead to the shutdown of the Village water system. Asked if he could predict how soon that could happen, Bates said he could not.

“No one can answer that,” he said. “It could break tomorrow or in 10 years. It’s the weakest link in the whole system.”

He has looked into the possibility of replacing the bolts, which are located in the local plant water lines connected to the Village distribution system, and been advised that replacing the bolts could create bigger problems.

The possibility of the plant breaking down weighs on him, Bates said, stating he urges Council to move ahead.

“I’m responsible for the water 24/7,” he said. “Let’s quit tabling the issue and make a decision.”

In other Council business:
• Council unanimously passed a resolution that allows the Village manager to enter into a cooperative paving program with Greene County to repair certain Village streets. According to the resolution, $168,500 has been budgeted for the project. The streets include parts of Tully Street, Tower Court, Meadow Lane, Talus Drive, parts of West Center College, Kurt Street, Dawson Street and Fair Acres.

• Council unanimously approved a contract with AMP’s Eco-Smart “green pricing” program to allow the Village to apply for “sustainability grants” of up to $5,000.

• Council began a review of the zoning code update which was recently completed by the Village Planning Commission. Council is not allowed to vote on the issue for at least 30 days, but will continue to review the update at regular meetings.

• Council’s next meeting is Monday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.


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