Tuesday, October 12th, 2021
City lands $3.5M grant
St. Marys plans to build treatment train
By Sydney Albert
ST. MARYS - The city has been awarded a $3.5 million H2Ohio grant for the purchase, design and construction of a roughly 65-acre wetland treatment train for the Miami-Erie Canal.
City council members on Monday night approved under rule suspension an emergency resolution allowing city safety and service director Greg Foxhoven to enter into a grant agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The funds would be used to purchase land and construct a treatment train along Aqueduct Road, where the feeder canal from Grand Lake flows into the Miami-Erie Canal. It would treat the water flowing into St. Marys from Grand Lake. Water from the Miami-Erie Canal would pass through the constructed wetlands, which would help remove excess nutrients and sediment from the water.
"This is fantastic news for the citizens of St. Marys," Mayor Patrick McGowan said in a prepared statement. "This process was initiated in 2013 and has been a long, twisting road with many dead ends but we finally got here."
As a condition of the grant, the project must be completed by June 2023, Foxhoven said.
The city has also been trying to enter into a partnership with ODNR for maintenance assistance once the treatment train is completed. While ODNR would not provide maintenance funds, Foxhoven said the department would offer expertise if needed.
Superintendent of community services and engineering Craig Moeller said the proposed wetland would have a pump station. Water would flow from the canal into the wetland, but would need to be pumped back out again.
The treatment train would be taken into the city's park system, and would also serve as a nature area. There are still some annexation issues to hammer out, according to Foxhoven, but he felt it would go nicely with nearby K.C. Geiger Park and could possibly have natural trails for people to walk through the area.
"This will be a benefit to the citizens of St. Marys and improve the quality of life here," McGowan said in his statement. "Clean water in the 21st century will be paramount to our future. This will also help improve the quality of life for those in the Western Lake Erie Watershed because we will be sending them cleaner water."
McGowan thanked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, ODNR Director Mary Mertz and Assistant Director Mindy Bankey and local ODNR staff; Eric Sass of the H2Ohio program; state representatives Craig Riedel and Susan Manchester; and engineering firm Burgess and Niple.
Foxhoven and McGowan also thanked Moeller for his role in securing grant funds for the city over the years. Over the past two years, Moeller has helped the city receive over $8.1 million in grant funding, according to Foxhoven.
In other business, council members passed two pieces of emergency legislation to create new positions for the city's water and sewer department, with the approval of the Utility Workers Union of America.
Maintenance of the city's water and wastewater plants has been conducted by employees who were required to have both maintenance knowledge and an operator's license from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. However, the certification test has recently proven to be a barrier to recruiting new employees, according to Foxhoven.
The new positions will allow for employees without certification who have a background in maintenance to be hired on and, if they choose to do so, undergo the certification process at a later time. They would receive higher compensation if they later received an operator's certification.
Council members also
• heard from Ashley Randolph, a candidate running for the city's second ward council seat.
• scheduled a finance committee meeting for 5:15 p.m. Oct. 18 in the city council room.
• passed under rule suspension an emergency resolution to assess $280.72 for city labor and equipment used to repair a property at 236 Lynn Street not up to city code.
• were reminded the Walk With Nature Fall Festival will be this Sunday. An event will be held at the gazebo in Memorial Park at 11:30 a.m. to commemorate St. Marys becoming a Buckeye Trail city and the hike will commence at noon.
• passed a resolution of sympathy to the family of Michael James Lynch, a former city councilman and mayor who passed away in September.
• excused councilman John Bubp's absence.