By Shawn Stinson
Two individuals were selected to join the Town of Franklin council and a discussion regarding lead testing in the town’s water lines were the top topics at the latest meeting.
The July 12 meeting at the town office was kicked off by Bob Horan, mayor, administering the oath of office to re-elected council members Kristin Dingess, Genevieve Glover and Edwin Wimer, as well as Bruce Minor, recorder. Following the oath, the council members selected two town residents – Jarred Rawson and Keely Smith – to fill the two vacancies. Rawson and Smith recited their oaths of office and immediately took their seats.
Frank Wehrle, town manager, informed the council members of possible future requirements by federal and state officials regarding the replacement of water service lines in the town’s water system. Wehrle said the issue was spurred by the situation in Flint, Michigan, regarding lead in that town’s water system.
Wehrle said the main water lines fall under the responsibility of the town, but customers have the financial responsibility for the service lines. Wehrle added the service lines are on the customer’s side of the water meters.
Wehrle said the possible new requirements will force municipalities and public service district officials to know what the service lines are made of and if there is potentially any lead present in the lines. He added currently service meters and their materials have been the responsibility of the water customers.
To prepare for the possible federal and state requirements, Wehrle said town officials need to identify where the water customers are located in the town and then attempt to identify the materials of the line. He added if a line is suspected of having lead, the line must be replaced at the customer’s expense. Wehrle said it could be costly for a customer, but grant money is expected to be available to pay for the replacement. It is not known if the funds would be paid directly to the water customer or the municipality or the public service district.
Wehrle confidently informed the council members “that the town’s mains are not lead.” He added “I can happily tell you the vast majority if not all of our services lines for all our customers are not lead.”
“In the last 30 years that Larry (Hoover, the town’s maintenance supervisor) has worked, he has come across exactly one lead line,” Wehrle said. “It was a ‘T-offed’ service line that was very old.”
Despite the apparent good news regarding the lack of lead service lines, Wehrle warned the council members it may not be all right. He said federal and state officials are concerned about galvanized lines. Wehrle said they believe galvanized lines “equals lead.”
“I’m not exactly sure what the direct line connection is there,” he said.
If a line is suspected to be lead or even galvanized, it has to checked. Wehrle said that process could be “very time-consuming and expensive.” He added the town does not have the manpower to identify and map all of the lines or check if there is lead in the line.”
“The behind the scenes work is going to be the issue,” Wehrle said.
Wehrle said 120 Water, based in Zionsville, Indiana, has been working with various municipalities and water service districts in the state on the issue. He added the company assists with contacting the water customers to inform them of the process and sends them a questionnaire about their service line.
The company submitted a proposal of nearly $10,500 for the first year of work and approximately $8,500 for the second year.
Glover inquired if funds the town received from the American Rescue Plan Act could be used to cover the expense of hiring 120 Water. Wehrle said he believes the money can be used for the project since it deals with infrastructure.
The council members unanimously approved Wehrle’s request to hire 120 Water for the project.
Elizabeth Scott, assistant business manager, led a discussion regarding creating a website for the town. Scott said, “Taylor Yokum could create a website for the town.” Scott said she would like the website to include information about the town, information about the council members and town employees. She added the website should also provide customers with an option to pay for utility bills, building permits and business licenses.
Scott and Yokum said the initial cost of the website would be $850 for the creation and design. The annual fee to keep the website active with the host company is approximately between $160 and $240 with an additional $14 to maintain the domain name.
The pair added there is a monthly maintenance cost of $75. Yokum, who called into the meeting, said the fee would be waived because Scott or Wehrle would be able to update the information on the site themselves or she would do it at no charge if it was a “simple solution or a quick fix.” Yokum added she would charge an hourly rate if the changes were “drastic that may take a little while for me to make those updates.”
Jonie E. Nelson, town attorney, questioned if the town would own the domain name following the creation of the website or if Yokum would retain it. Yokum said she would “send direct access and ownership” to town officials to maintain and control the website when the build is finalized.
The council members unanimously approved Yokum creating a website for the town. A draft of the website is expected in two weeks.
In other action, Wehrle submitted three new polices for the council members to approve as part of the town’s upcoming water project. He said the policies are “similar to ones already in place.”
The first policy approved is a drought management plan. The plan provides a “strategy for the conservation of available water resources with an emphasis on keeping available water supplies for the health and safety of the public. The plan is in accordance with the regulations set by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, the West Virginia Office of Environmental Health Services and the West Virginia Environmental Engineering Division.
The plan states if the town would enter a drought situation “without adequate flow to process water at the treatment plant, town officials would contact water customers to request them to suspend use of water to fill swimming pools, water lawns and gardens as well as wash houses and vehicles.
The second policy OK’d by the council members centered on hydrant maintenance. The policy states there will be a routine flushing of the hydrant system to purge it of “problem causing impurities.” The flushing of the system is set to occur at least twice a year.
In addition, other maintenance could include weed removal and mowing around the hydrants; painting as necessary; repairing or replacing damaged or non-performing hydrants and or valves; and maintaining written logs by field personnel.
The final policy approved by the council members centered on valve exercise and maintenance. The policy states “the purpose of operable valves in the water distribution system is to provide a means for isolation in case of a line break or another possible contamination event, reducing water loss and protecting public health.”
The plan states town employees of the water system will make annual inspections of the system’s valve and would exercise the valves at least 1 to 5 years. They will also update the system maps to obtain GPS coordinates of the valves.
Nelson briefly discussed two issues with the council members. The first was the structure on the property at 123 South Main Street owned by Carmen Miranda. The house was severely damaged by a vehicle several years ago. Nelson said she spoke with the property owner’s attorney who informed her if town officials want to demolish the house, they can do so at the town’s expense. Nelson said she responded if town officials were to move forward with the demolition of the house they would go to court to seek reimbursement from Miranda.
Nelson also mentioned attempting to secure right of way permits from various cell phone tower owners to access two of the town’s water tanks. Nelson said she is having difficulty getting in touch with officials to receive those right of way permissions.
The council members unanimously accepted the financial statement submitted by Wehrle for the month of June without comment.
Wehrle also submitted the first budget revision for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Wehrle said there was an additional $3,134 in the assigned fund balance at the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year. The council members unanimously approved assigning the additional funds to the city hall account for the current fiscal year. The revised amount in the city hall account is $190,569.
The council members also unanimously accepted the minutes from the June 15 and June 17 meetings without comment. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 9 in the town office.