OLEAN — Another $85,000 will be going toward speeding up sewer work in South Olean.
The Common Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to move $85,000 from the sewer fund’s $4 million balance to aid in relining the 3-foot sewer line along the Allegheny River levy.
Council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, was absent, as were Mayor Bill Aiello and Department of Public Works Director Bob Ring.
Alderman Kevin Dougherty, R-Ward 4, noted the city agreed to two consent orders with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to address the city’s sewer system.
“This in addition to the $250,000 the DEC requires us to spend,” he said, sponsoring the resolution. “I think $85,000 is an excellent step.”
The inflow of runoff into the line has triggered problems for the city in the past. The Department of Environmental Conservation and the city agreed to two consent orders — one to cover the recent $23.25 million overhaul of the wastewater treatment plant, which tended to overflow and dump sewage into the river during heavy rains and snow melts, and another to invest at least $250,000 a year into sewer line repairs for several decades in order to keep runoff out of the system. The relining project along the levy was the first priority project, as it carries 75 percent of the city’s wastewater and tends to be permeated by rainwater and snowmelt through the 75-year-old corrugated steel pipe.
While most of the line to the wastewater treatment plant has been serviced, work is still needed from around Fourth Street to 12th Street, with a goal of 2021 for completion. To reach that goal, an additional allocation will also be needed in the next budget year, with aldermen saying last week they would like to see it included in the budget instead of an amendment after the budget is approved.
Fourth Ward resident Pab Sungenis, who is running to represent the ward on the Democratic ticket, urged the council to approve the funding.
“The water and sewer infrastructure is long past its time,” he said, adding the time to do more to upgrade the systems wasn’t yesterday, “but 25 years ago.”
He said that “mayor after mayor and council after council have kicked the can down the road” when faced with the costs of upgrading the city’s infrastructure, and “it’s time to stop putting a Band-Aid on it and sew up the wound.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the council unanimously approved a new policy aimed at adding more oversight to capital project change orders.
The policy, first proposed in late 2018, sets thresholds for approvals of change orders, with department heads, the mayor and council approving the changes at various thresholds — any change order over $25,000 in cost or credit needing to go before the council, under the policy.
The policy is the second to come from the audit and compliance committee, which was formed following the disclosure of a $1.02 million lawsuit against the city. At the heart of the suit was an unpaid invoice to CATCO of Alden for the North Union Street overhaul of 2014 to 2016, as part of the city’s Walkable Olean project.
A policy approved in December requires the city attorney to notify the audit compliance committee at least quarterly of all threatened and pending litigation that seeks at least $50,000 or may not be covered by the city’s liability insurance. The notification is also to be copied to the Common Council and mayor.
A third financial policy requiring the city to have a certain amount in the general fund unencumbered fund balance at any given time was approved earlier this year.