November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain Council considers taking bids to merge utility operations

LORAIN — After two years of discussion, City Council will soon consider whether to ask for bids on an estimated $1.6 million consolidation of the Utility Department’s three locations into one.

The Streets and Utilities committee unanimously voted to recommend Council weigh merging the department’s three locations into one during its meeting Monday night. The committee also recommended Council approve an attached Project Labor Agreement, which sets requirements for union and minority workers as well safety issues for the construction.

The plan is to expand the existing building at the Philip Q. Maiorana Wastewater Treatment Plant and put 50 to 60 utility department workers under one roof.

“Administration, water, engineering, billing, meter readers, sewer, distribution — they’d all be housed there,” Utilities Director Corey Timko said of the site off West Erie Avenue.

The city’s Kansas Avenue location, which housed water distribution and engineering, has already closed, and the department plans to phase out its First Street location during the next two years, Timko said.

The project would help run the department more efficiently, Timko told the committee.

“A lot of drive time will be saved and … it will be easier to communicate and provide a better office structure that allows us all to work more closely with a lot more ease. It’s kind of a no-brainer as to why we would do this.

“Most cities operate in this manner.”

Early studies indicate the savings on utility bills alone for one building compared to three will recoup construction costs within six years, Timko said.

Timko said there are a couple funding options, including paying for it with utility department funds or selling bonds.

Timko said he’s leaning toward bonds because of the city’s cash flow problems.

Timko said a utility rate hike was not in consideration.

“I don’t think so,” Timko said. “We’re really committed to not raising the rates.”

In other business, IC Green Energy gave a presentation on residential wind turbines.

The Lorain company is hoping by sell and install 30-foot tall by 4-foot wide turbines.

The company said the cost for a homeowner would be about $4,700 after federal and state tax breaks and rebates, although the full $10,000 price is charged at the time of purchase.

The residential turbines generate between 2,000 and 4,000 kilowatt hours a year.

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7144 or acastelli@chroniclet.com.