News broke 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, Chesterhill made the short list to receive $3,573,000 from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund in the form of a grant toward a village-wide sewage system installation.
Mitch Altier, a Board-Certified Environmental Engineer with the IBI Group shared the news with Mayor Richard Wetzel via email. Altier said although it’s not 100 percent official, he has never seen a project that makes the list ever get changed. “It’s big news for the area,” Altier said.
The WPCLF, through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Water Development Authority, provides financial and technical assistance to the state’s small and hardship communities for planning, design and construction of projects that protect or improve the quality of Ohio’s water resources.
Ohio has procedures communities must follow when applying for funding as well as procedures for determining the priority in which projects will be awarded funding. Ohio EPA likes an idea called regionalization, which links community systems together to share expenses and reduce costs.
Shannon Wells, Director of the Morgan County Development Office, was instrumental in initiating the process by seeking and applying for grant money to conduct the $28,000 initial study. Altier, who had experience in starting water and sewage projects from scratch, was chosen to work with the village and perform the study.
Wells told Altier about her office’s efforts toward helping Stockport install their sewage system and he calculated that tying the two community’s sewage into one treatment plant was cheaper than building a second treatment plant. The combination will increase the volume at Stockport’s treatment plant to maximize its efficiency and utilize the state’s regionalization concept that scores higher points toward receiving funding.
“It’s been a process,” Wells said. “It’s such an impactful project, I’m super excited it’s happening on the southern end of the county, where we don’t see a lot of development.”
The village caught between a rock and a hard place, between evermore stringent federal and state environmental mandates, and low and fixed-income residents resistant to change, had to decide; keep up with the times or continue to dwindle into obscurity.
“We want to keep the town a town,” Councilman Ron Mayle Jr. said. “I’m for the sewer system because I think it will bring more infrastructure and more growth.”
However, some village residents aren’t entirely sold on the idea. “I know that we need it really bad and it will be a good thing, but…” retired resident Jean Bowman said.
Gerry Dorris echoed the same sentiment. “I think it can be a positive thing,” he said. “The only thing I’m worried about will be the cost of it because you have people now who can’t pay the water bill. What are they going to do when the sewer system comes in?”
Altier said the funding amount will cover the entire expense of the project and has a 10 percent overage contingency factored in as well. Wells will be working to secure a Community Development Block Grant, which is income based to help offset homeowner connection costs.
“The regionalization project is not only important to the village of Chesterhill but to Morgan County,” Council President Ken Peters said. “If it wasn’t for Stockport we wouldn’t have been able to do this. Then you have to thank the commissioners, Shannon Wells, the CIC and Mitch Altier with IBI.”
Altier said the project has made the draft list, next it will enter a public comment period, then will need to be finalized by the state, followed by the village and the EPA signing the agreement before construction will begin. The final determination should occur within the next 30-45 days.