Board of Public Utilities Reinstated in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – After a hiatus of several years, the city’s Board of Public Utilities has been reinstated and held its first meeting this week with newly appointed members.

The board had been disbanded by City Council under the past administration, with council deciding the service-safety director could assume the duties normally handled by the three-member BPU. 

The current council, however, decided recently to reinstate the board and appointed three members with prior utilities experience who introduced themselves at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Serving as chairman will be city Planning Director Bill Cowan, who served for 2 1/2 years on the BPU prior to assuming his current position. Other members are former Mayor Jim Swoger, who was on the board prior to being elected mayor and then again after leaving office, and Ray Sullivan, who retired in 2016 with 32 years of service to the city.

The board decided to hold regular meetings at 2 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

During its meeting Tuesday, the board heard reports from both Paul McCarthy, water superintendent, and Dave Freeman, acting wastewater superintendent. They indicated there are laundry lists of projects in each department that need to be addressed.

However, asked by Sullivan if the city is in violation with any regulations, both superintendents emphasized there are currently no pending violations and also offered some positive news that some projects are being addressed.

McCarthy said one issue facing the water department is new regulations regarding lead and copper, which require departments to identify by October 2024 the consistency of each service line.

He said a concern is deciding how to access the homes of more than 5,000 customers to make that determination, saying, “They want someone to physically go and determine it, not just guess.”

McCarthy said having city water meter readers do the work would probably result in delayed water billing, and he told the board he plans to check with other communities to see how they are handling it.

Cowan said he had done some research and found three to four communities that hired firms to do that work for them. No decision was made during the meeting.

In regard to the wastewater department, Freeman said the EPA came in this summer and conducted a full audit of the sewage plant, which he said is “old and in need of a lot of equipment.”

Freeman added: “The EPA has been our best friends over the last several years. It has been very helpful.”

Both McCarthy and Freeman discussed issues with personnel, primarily problems with attracting employees with the required licenses. McCarthy said he has been short an operator for more than two years, with no Class II operators currently at the water plant. He holds a Class III license, and a chemist at the plant is also licensed. 

Freeman said he and another employee have filled in over the past 20 months, with the search for a Class III operator still ongoing. 

Despite an increase in salary, “people just don’t want to get higher class licenses,” Service-Safety Director David Dawson told the board.

Pictured at top: Members of the newly reinstated East Liverpool Board of Public Utilities are, from left, Bill Cowan, Jim Swoger and Ray Sullivan.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.