Sewage is drawing attention in Barnesville

BARNESVILLE- Village Council members tackled several issues at Monday night’s meeting.

First, Nick Hammer from the State of Ohio EPA updated council and residents on the Bethesda Street and Railroad Street sewage issue results.

He explained that the average home age in the target area is around 63 years old, and the lots are generally one acre or less. The two homes with the sewage spills had made repairs and alleviated the problem. Hammer emphasized, however, that the repairs people are making are most likely bandaids to outdated systems, and the EPA “strongly recommends” that the Village install a sewer line and have residents connect.

Council members Terry McCort and Brad Hudson are against mandatory connection. Some residents support the sewer, and others say their septic systems are well-maintained and want to continue using them. Part of this issue is the fact that these properties are outside of Barnesville’s corporate limits, so council members feel that if the town builds a line to this area, it will be necessary to build lines and provide service to other areas having similar problems. One resident noted that some residents in town are paying taxes and are still not hooked into the sewer system, but McCort remained adamant about not mandating for everyone. Councilman Tony Johnson says they are working on a plan, but will not tell people that they have to connect to sewer service if there isn’t a problem. Mayor Ron Bischof added that members will be talking to these neighbors directly to get their opinions on building a sewer line.

There is a second odor issue in the same neighborhood involving a ditch that has been cleaned out in the past. Council members agreed that this has been a problem and asked Village Administrator Roger Deal to look into excavating it properly as a priority.

Hammer concluded by saying that there is limited space on the lots for continuing repairs to systems requiring leech lines. “You get to the breaking point, and it’s expensive to replace outdated systems with new ones. You want to get the sewer line ready before these properties run out of room.”

Dennis Bernaciak and a team from Central Collection Agency (CCA) in Cleveland addressed council about the recent tax collection letters sent to many Barnesville residents. He said the objective of their service is to increase the tax revenue for the Village, and they do this by using federal tax form information.

He apologized for the situation the letters created and acknowledged that there were some unforeseen “shortcomings” in the process. Most notably is the way Barnesville files information, using business names and only part of the social security numbers. Bernaciak said that this system works well for Barnesville, but didn’t merge with their system. Now that they know there is an issue, he said, “We can look at the procedures and see what is the most productive way to move forward.”

Many of the people who haven’t filed are not aware that they need to file. They may have a home business or a rental property that generates income requiring tax payments to the Village.

“We want to identify those who probably owe money,” noted Bernaciak. “Sending letters to people who don’t owe taxes doesn’t do anyone any good.”

Councilman Tony Johnson added that the purpose isn’t to make anyone angry but to make sure everyone is paying their fair share. Members requested a second letter be sent explaining that they are working on the situation. The letters did, however, generate over $21,000 in unpaid tax revenue for the town. CCA is working with the fiscal office to fine tune the process.

Members from ADR Engineering were at the meeting to answer any questions on their feasibility study proposals for the East Ohio Regional Industrial Park sewer line. Council members had no issues and voted to accept ADR’s contract for the project.

The aggregated electric proposal with Volunteer Energy will not be on the November ballot. Five council members needed to vote on the Ordinance, and only four were present at the meeting.

There will be a work session on future water sales on Thursday, Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the village administrator office.

Tom Michelli commended the Barnesville Fire Department on their service for Councilman Dale Bunting’s mother’s funeral.

Valenti can be reached at