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01-22-03: Sewer leak may drain Rockford budget
The Daily Standard
    ROCKFORD - A faulty sanitary force main that last week spewed raw sewage within a few feet of the St. Marys River will cost an estimated $157,700 to replace.
    Rockford Village Administrator Jeff Long delivered the bad news to council members meeting Tuesday. In response, council members delayed approval of a construction and remodeling project until they weigh the financial hit of the emergency sewer project.
    Utility technician Tom Beahrs discovered the leak in the 8-inch, cast iron sewer line Jan. 15 during a routine daily check of a lift station near the river, Long said. Sewage was "bubbling out of the ground," he said, even though the line is buried nearly 30 feet deep.
    The lift station is about 75 feet from the river.
    Village workers contained the leak before any sewage reached the river, Long said. The overflow has been temporarily diverted back to the lift station manhole, he said. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was notified of the problem.
    "It's a problem, but at this time it's contained," Long said. "We're not polluting the river."
    Complete replacement at an estimated $157,700 cost is the only sure-fire way to prevent future problems, Long told council members. Last week's break was the second recent problem with the line that carries the village's entire sewage flow out of town and to the wastewater treatment plant, he said.
    "The real solution is to replace it," Long said, adding that future problems are likely with the existing line, installed in 1959. Fill dirt was added on top of the line in the 1960s and the excessive pressure might be too much stress for the line, he said.
    Replacement, however, in-volves a costly, 600-foot bore under the river.
    The town has filed an application for 50 percent of the estimated cost with the Ohio Public Works Commission through an emergency repairs program. Long said he expects to hear within a day or two whether the town is approved for the grant. He also has inquired about low-interest loans through the EPA.
    Without some type of assistance, the town would be hard-pressed to fund the line replacement without sacrificing other projects or assuming an acceptable debt load, Long said.
    "If they don't fund us, we can't really afford it. We'll probably do a band-aid repair again," that would cost an estimated $5,000, Long said.
    The village's sewer fund now pays about $158,000 annually in debt reduction, he said.
    With grant assistance, the town can come up with a portion of its obligation through existing sanitary sewer funds or through a state-mandated $35,000 sanitary sewer reserve fund, Long said. Tapping the reserve fund would mean having to replenish it, he said.
    The financial uncertainty led council members to put the brakes on a long-talked about project to create new council chambers in the back of the existing building, add new offices in the front of the building and add equipment storage space at the wastewater plant.
    Council President Eugene Steiner at first urged council members to approve the two phases of in-house work that would cost a combined $30,000. Other council members, with the sewer emergency fresh on their minds, decided otherwise.
    Council member Nick Sell recommended delaying action at least until village officials find out if they will get emergency assistance for the sewer project. Others agreed, and Steiner withdrew his motion to approve the work.
    The remodeling and new storage area were among the highlights of Long's preview of projects for this year. Other anticipated work includes finishing the Front Street water line project, beginning the 2,000-foot water line replacement along Franklin and Market streets and pursuing grant money to have those streets reconstructed and improvements made at the water plant.


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