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South Point discusses possibility of water meters on houses

Village administrator says high water usage not sustainable

By Taylor Burnette

The Ironton Tribune

SOUTH POINT — The South Point Village Council met Tuesday night at village hall and discussed the village’s intense usage of water, among other items.

The council also discussed the possibility of installing water meters on houses in the village, getting time clocks for all hourly village employees and the possibility of wildflowers being planted in the median of U.S. 52.

After the council took care of routine business, Russ McDonald, the village administrator, presented his concerns about the village’s water usage to the council.

McDonald explained that the village’s water storage system stores 800,000 gallons of water, and that all of the reserves are being used in a 24-hour period each day. The village uses from around 600-800 gallons per minute, McDonald said, an amount that is not sustainable for the village’s current water system.

In addition to the unsustainability, McDonald said, the village lost use of one of its wells, one of the two largest providers of water, on Monday night. In the event that more than one of these wells went out at a time, the village would have to pull from other companies, McDonald said. Even with that, the village would be unable to provide for the its current water usage without all of its wells.

“Our water system right now is struggling,” McDonald said.

The average amount of water usage per month for each household in the village, McDonald said, is around 11,000 gallons. The national average is 4,000.

The extreme amount of water usage cannot be blamed on The Point Industrial Park, McDonald said. The Point only uses around 25 gallons per minute. McDonald said that it cannot be blamed on a leak either, as a leak this large would likely lead to water across a street or in somebody’s yard.

“This is just water that is being used,” McDonald said, “I’m not saying abused. I’m just saying ‘used.’”

McDonald also said that the 20 million gallons of water the village uses per month is not comparable to the 20 million gallons of sewer the village pumps, due to the fact that the 20 million gallons of sewer comes from three different water companies.

McDonald then recommended to the council that water meters be installed throughout the village.

These meters would not cause an increase in billing for the elderly or low income residents, McDonald said, because it is likely they do not use over the average anyway, and would be charged accordingly. The increase in prices would come for those who are using more than the minimum the city would set, likely around 4,000 gallons per month.

McDonald said he has talked with many people who wouldn’t mind paying for their water when they use larger amounts.

Additionally, McDonald has concerns for the health of the aquifer, or underground river, the village pulls its water from. Neighboring areas who also pull from it have voiced concerns about the village’s usage.

“We are killing that thing,” McDonald said. “I mean, you’ve got neighbors up and down the river that are just amazed at how much water that we’re using. They’re saying, ‘Well we’re accountable. We know what we’re using. We’re good stewards of the water. You guys are just destroying this aquifer.’”

McDonald said he had a study done by the Rural Community Action Council and that his stance is not just a knee jerk reaction on his part. This is not an issue of revenue either, he said.

“We don’t have issues with the revenue,” McDonald said. “It’s not about that; it’s a usage issue.”

McDonald recommended that after meters are installed, there is a set limit of around 4,000 gallons, and an added price for every 1,000 gallons after that. Additionally, he recommended a three-month grace period after installing the meters to give residents an idea of the new prices and their current usage.

The importance of the issue was echoed by members of council and Mayor Jeff Gaskin.

“Not doing anything in this particular situation is not the solution,” Council member Chuck Austin said.

Mayor Jeff Gaskin said he has a meter on his own house. Additionally, McDonald said he installed meters on all city buildings.
Council member Mary Cogan discussed her own experience with being charged for using more than a set amount of water in another city.

“I think that does make me more diligent if it hits [me] in the pocket,” Cogan said.

She said that this could also affect how good of an environmental steward the village is.

The council and McDonald discussed the other added benefits of meters, like being able to plug in a laptop with specialized software and locate things like leaks within a home.

A motion was made towards getting a new, large well and approved by all of the council members present. McDonald hoped to bring in the Rural Community Action Council at the next meeting to give a fuller picture, and the council plans to discuss more about the meters at a later date.

McDonald said the timeline for meters would be around 6 months to a year. Council has yet to vote on the matter.

In other business:
• The council discussed having a time clock for all hourly employees. Currently, the police force and the administrative offices do not have to clock in or out before or after their workday. Austin questioned whether it was something they owed to the people of the village. Cogan said that consistency is a virtue. Additionally, council questioned if this would mean payments to village employees increased or decreased.

• Bill Dingus, the executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, gave a brief summary of The Point’s progress. The Point gives the village around $30,000 in revenue each year, as well as other forms of commerce. Two new businesses will be coming to The Point and surrounding area, including one at the commerce center near the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, Dingus said he hopes to develop projects in the village focusing on quality of life, like a running trail for people to use for exercise.

• Council passed a resolution for the village to apply for funds from the CARES Act for COVID-19 related funds if they were eligible to apply.

• Mayor Jeff Gaskin suggested that if the Ohio Department of Transportation would like for the village of South Point to mow the median on U.S. 52, that the village could instead plant wildflowers there that would look nice and require little care.

• The village received a grant of $200,000 and has chosen to use it to make improvements to the community center, updating things like the ceiling and bathrooms.