County concerns on Route 50W sewer project are alleviated

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By Larry Di Giovanni Messenger Staff Journalist


Despite concerns about public meeting “performance” and the project timeline, the Athens County Commissioners appeared to have all of their questions satisfied Tuesday concerning the $25 million Route 50W sanitary sewer project.

Their questions were directed toward Kyle Schwieterman, project manager of HDR Engineering, who informed commissioners that the project design phase is proceeding toward being 90 percent completed in July, and fully completed by this coming winter or the spring of 2019. Reviews of sewer line layouts should be completed this week, he said, which will help keep the project within the projected timeline.

Schwieterman also said he is working closely with Rich Kasler, county water and sewer superintendent, on issues including grinder pump placements, as well as with local attorney Frank Lavelle on access to easements from affected property owners. The Ohio Department of Transportation has been contacted involving access to right-of-way where needed, and the Norfolk Railroad has been asked permission to place lines under tracks where needed.

While the vast majority of the project affecting approximately 1,200 residential properties involves gravity flow to a sewer station, there is also the issue of homes located below planned sewer lines needing grinder pumps to pump sewage uphill as needed. Schwieterman said at the 60 percent stage of project design completion, the good news is the number of grinder pumps necessary has been adjusted from 63 to 42, a decrease by one-third.

That news was well received by commissioners including Lenny Eliason, who wrote a letter to Schwieterman on June 22. In that letter, Eliason wrote that after hearing from Kasler and his field reviews of the project, “40 percent of the houses that have been identified as needing (grinder) pumps would not need them. This would result in a savings to the project and long-term operation.”

Eliason also expressed concern in his letter that “your firm (HDR Engineering) should be in the field with Rich (Kasler) reviewing these sites.”

The county is hoping to limit grinder pumps when possible, Eliason said later. They are expensive, but those costs are being incorporated into the overall project cost borne by the county. However, individual property owners needing grinder pump stations will be responsible for their maintenance, he added.

Another issue that Schwieterman addressed was how the project is handling the placement of conduits in the ground for fiberoptic and telecommunications purposes. Those conduits will need to be built five feet from the sewer line, and not directly above it — sewer line separation from conduits will resemble “steps” on staircase, Eliason said.

Eliason’s letter criticized HDR Engineering for “the lack of preparedness at the public meeting and the lagging of the scheduled timeline.” That referred to a recent public meeting inside the Athens Community Center, where technical difficulties left commissioners and audience without the benefit of visual aids, the letter states.

However, Eliason said following Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting he is now satisfied that the sanitary sewer project is “back on track,” and that is largely because Kasler is now satisfied that the project is on track to meet its timeline.

That means the project should be ready to go to bid by the spring of 2019, followed by construction starting by summer 2019, Eliason said.