BELLAIRE - Village Administrator Dan Marling spoke with members of the media on Monday afternoon in order to address the rash of fires that have taken place in the village over the last few weeks. Other topics discussed included the situation with both fire hydrants in the village and the ongoing troubles with the water intake.
Marling read a statement from Fire Chief Bill Swoyer concerning the string of fires in the village. Swoyer was unable to be present at the conference due to a meeting with the fire marshal. His statement to the public read, "I would like to reassure the public that although we have had multiple structure fires within the Village of Bellaire, we do not feel that they are related in any way. Two of them have been ruled electrical; the remainder are still under investigation by the State of Ohio Fire Marshal's office."
Swoyer's statement also said, "I do not want the public to fear an arsonist is running loose in Bellaire. The problems are unique and are being handled accordingly." Swoyer also said that if anyone should notice anything suspicious, it should be reported to the proper authorities as quickly as possible.
Addressing the issue of the fire hydrants in the village, Marling restated what was said at the last council meeting on August 21.
In essence, the village has between 90 and 100 fire hydrants, and to test these hydrants requires about 7,000 gallons of water per hydrant. The village would have to use around 630,000 to 700,000 gallons of water to test all the hydrants, which is something the village simply cannot afford to do at the current time given the ongoing problems with Bellaire's water intake in the river.
"Unfortunately, we just do not feel -and we have the support from the EPA right now - that we're in a position to be able to (test all the hydrants)," Marling said. "We are being very proactive - as much as we can be -with the resources we have available to move forward with that. I've said many times that if you back a truck up in here with a couple million dollars on it, we'll fix everything that's broken. We know what we need to do. It's just that we don't have the funds to do it."
Continuing on the topic of resources, Marling stated that the village has been very successful this year with acquiring grant money. The emergency supplemental connection project, which will begin later this year, is fully-funded by grants, allotting the village just under $400,000 to complete the emergency water connection with Belmont County.
Additionally, the village received around $52,000 in grant money for the 41st Street storm sewer project, and it is eligible to receive another grant for some road work and sewer projects in the Indian Run area.
As Marling has previously explained during council's sessions, the village has been tremendously lucky with acquiring grant money. However, any funding the village acquires in this way must be solely used as the grant specifies. In other words, money from the $400,000 supplemental connection grant cannot be taken and used by the village to purchase new fire hydrants or to pave potholes.
Marling stated that as the end of the fiscal year approaches, the Finance Committee and the village auditor will have a much better perspective of what, if any, surplus funding the village will have available, and that a portion of that will go towards replacing fire hydrants in the village.
"We have six more hydrants on order," Marling said. "We have the funding to finance those, and as soon as they come in, they will be installed."
He explained that the cost of replacing a single hydrant can be rather large. The hydrant itself costs between $3,200 and $4,000, not including the watch valve which is another $800 to $1,000. On top of the cost of the equipment, replacing a hydrant also requires wages for three workers and a backhoe operator.
"We know what we have to do," Marling said. "We even have a plan to do it. It's just finding the money to be able to accomplish the tasks."
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