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Routine repairs spark water problems in city

By Staff | Sep 16, 2009

Routine maintenance of the water lines in the City of Sistersville resulted in two major water breaks and an outage that affected several families and businesses for more than 48 hours.

One outraged citizen took advantage of the public forum portion of the council meeting on Monday to voice his concerns for the community. Dan Heintzman lives in the south end of town, but learned of the water problems from his brother.

Heintzman asked, “Why were there no water buffalos in town during the water outage?”

Dave Bassett replied, “No one anticipated for more than a few hours.”

According to Bassett, the distribution lines were down for routine maintenance when the city crew discovered a major water break and was forced to turn the water off again.

Another concern Heintzman had was what would have happened if a fire broke out in the north end of town during the outage. Bassett explained there were two systems in town, one of distribution and one for the fire line. Had the need arose for the use of a hydrant, water would have been available to the fire department.

“The fire department has plenty of hose to hook on the the hydrant at the post office where the line is the highest,” said Bassett.

Another misconception during the water outage was that bus drivers in Sistersville were given the responsibility of informing students being transported to Sistersville Elementary there was no school on Thursday. To dispel the rumor, Mayor Dave Fox stated, “The Board of Education was notified and the phone tree was activated. I was on the phone with the principal several times during the outage. For the students who may not have received a call, the bus drivers were asked to transport the students to school so someone could pick them up. Every parent who has a child in the school has a direct line for emergency purposes. If you don’t have a kid in school you would not have received a call.”

Heintzman asked another question, “Does the city have an emergency management system?”

“We are in the process of putting one together right now,” replied Bassett.

Heintzman interrupted, “You mean eight years after 9/11there isn’t one?”

He was informed there was a plan set in motion for Tyler County administrated by Tom Cooper that covered the City of Sistersville and surrounding communities.

In spite of the outage, several rumors and the outraged citizens in the effected areas, the city crew worked around the clock to repair the lines and restore water to the community. No one could have predicted that routine maintenance would lead to multiple breaks in the lines.

Fox commented, “We would be more than happy for someone to put on his boots and jump in the hole to help.”

Some residents and businesses did come to the aid of the tired crew. Teresa and Pat Collins, owners of The Fort, brought pizza. Several other concerned citizens supplied the crew with refreshments as well.

In light of this and other possible disasters, every household should be prepared to sustain themselves for a period of time. Can goods, water, and other non-perishable items should be kept on hand at all times.

Sistersville resident Penny Howard asked Fox about the status of the repairs on the historic Carriage House adjacent to her home. Howard brought the issue before council at the Aug. 10 meeting where she requested their intervention in dealing with the deterioration of the building. In her words, the building was an accident waiting to happen.

Since then, an inspector has surveyed the property and gave the city and the property owner, Norman Todd, advice on what to do.

“Do we have a timeframe?” Howard asked.

Fox replied, “We do not have a timeframe. We cannot force him (Todd) to have a timeframe as long as he is working on the building.”

Todd stated he did not have an idea of how long it would take to repair the structure. “Getting the material and the equipment is the hold up,” he said. “The higher up I get, the longer it takes.”

Official matters of the council included the first reading of an ordinance setting forth an offense for failure to remove and dispose of animal feces deposited on private and public property. In laymen’s terms, this ordinance requires all residents walking their pets to pick up waste and dispose of it or face a fine imposed by the city.

The council discussed the ordinance and voted in favor of the matter.

In a discussion of another hot topic in the City of Sistersville, council members voted to drop the issue of restricting trailers entirely.

“We don’t have a problem with trailers and it’s not a good idea to bring up an issue where there is no issue,” stated Fox.

Ann Doig, Mike Tuttle, Dave Dietrich, and Vance Ash voted in favor of tabling the issue for good; Doug Williams voted against the motion.

The next meeting of the Sistersville City Council will be held on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.