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Sistersville Moves Forward With Projects in 2015

By Staff | Dec 30, 2015

Sistersville moved forward with many projects during 2015.

“In my opinion while we have accomplished so much there is still more to do. A two year term in terms of how much you achieve is very short,” said Mayor Bill Rice of his term – so far – in office.

Rice listed a few things the City Hall pursued.

“We were able to get the children a new splash park finished. At the request of our citizens we were able to bring back the parallel parking. The city is running more on a budget now than when I became Mayor. All city bills are being paid on time. The city’s bad debt is being collected as fast as we are able to collect it. But the biggest hurdle we have to get over is getting our water system updated. And with that it needs to be done in my opinion with no rate increases. People are having a hard enough time living day to day now. We also saw our tourist attraction the Ferry have a good year. We are also working with the junior sports in getting the James Willison family center in better condition. I feel that this has all been accomplished with our city council and all of our boards working as a team.”

First and foremost, City Hall began the process of addressing what to do about the city’s aging water distribution system. The goal is to move the city away from drawing water from the Ohio River. Sistersville is among the last cities in the state to rely on the river for its water supply.

Though the city’s Water Board is studying various proposals, City Hall favors connecting the city’s water system to the Tyler County Public Service District.

Rice said if the water board and city council endorse the proposal, City Hall would need to borrow up to $3.5 million to connect to Tyler PSD and make some repairs to the city’s aging water system. If the city pursued a new water plant, he said, rate hikes would be necessary to pay for the remaining $3.7 million balance needed to build a new water plant.

Rice said in order to provide water to Sistersville, Tyler PSD would have to drill an extra well. But if the city were to connect with Tyler PSD, Heintzman said, it would have to shore up its water loss rate estimated to be between 30 percent and 50 percent. High water loss rates like this are reasonably common through small to medium sized water systems across the state. The state’s Public Service Commission’s (PSC) standards require that utilities’ “unaccounted for” lost water is no more than 15 percent of the total water pumped.

Among the changes the city is considering to potentially be more efficient and reduce water loss by acquiring radio-read water meters.

In December, the water board tabled the measure do to lack of second for the motion. Daniel Heintzman, chairman of the water board, said the board will readdress the issue at its next meeting on Jan 4. The water board would have to recommend to city council whether or not to approve any radio read water meters before council makes any decision.

Rice said the water meters would cost about $180 each for a total cost about $171,000 – if all the meters within the city need to be replaced.

Water woes are not the only thing that council absorbed this year.

Sidewalks were repaired and there will be more streetscaping to come.

The city is in the process of creating a new streetscape plans that may include new sidewalks, landscaping, street lights and other amenities similar the improvements made in downtown Middlebourne. Rice said the money to pay for the project comes from a $200,00 state grant with the city providing an additional $40,000 match an 80/20 split. He said the project should begin in spring or summer. Burgess and Niple Engineering of Parkersburg will be translating council’s vision into reality. Rice said changing the traffic flow on Wells Street was a important part of these plans when it was opened to two-way traffic flowing in both directions. The city placed a stoplight at the intersection of Wells Street and Route 2.

During the fall, council approved moving parking meters on Wells Street because diagonal parking was changed to parallel parking between Wells Street and Route 2 the way it used to be many years ago. Citizens from the south end of town no longer have to travel north to come through town to perhaps visit Phillips Drug Store on Wells Street.

Another improvement was when Peoples’ Bank paid for repairs to the sidewalk work which starts more or less at the far corner of the Tyler Star News’ office at 720 Wells St., passes by the bank before it wraps around the building at 90-degree angle onto Charles Street and ends a short distance away. Backhoes and jack hammers busted up the old sidewalk. Workers then poured concrete into the trench which was paved into a smooth, flat surface.

Mon Power met with City Hall in December to discuss repairs to broken lights.

City Hall is not to blame for repairing the broken lights, according to city officials.

Mon Power is responsible for repairing broken street lights.While citizens can report light problems to City Hall, the city will forward these problems onto Mon Power.

Police Chief Rob Haught said after reporting a defective light pole to Mon Power or the city, he advises residents tie a ribbon around affected poles so the company will be able to locate them for repairs. Rice said City Hall has been working closely with Mon Power to identify broken lights, so the company can repair them. Rice asks citizens to contact him or City Hall if they have a light out in front of their house. Anyone who notices a malfunctioning street light to call Mon Power at 1-800-686-0022 or via the Internet at firstenergycorp.com/content/customer/service-requests/report-lighting-problem.html.

But not everything was about infrastructure improvements. The ferry carried legions of travelers and tourists across the Ohio River between two states this year.

The ferry’s last day before it closed for the season in mid November. The ferry does not receive any funding from the city and limited funds for repairs from state and federal grants.

Working on a shoe string budget, the ferry finished the year financially better than it has in past years, said Barbara Gage, director of the ferry board. In 2011, the state had to provide about $25,000 of assistance to save the ferry which was slowly sinking in a sea of red ink. Gage said operational expenses to maintain the ferry are provided by fares and donations from area businesses and individuals. Last year, the ferry closed in October instead of November because of funding issues, Gage said. She praised the ferry board and the community for keeping the ferry above water for another season that saw thousands utilize the City of Sistersville II, the only ferry remaining on the Ohio River in West Virginia.

Speaking of the ferry, one can’t help but note the passing of John P. Eckels, 79, of Sistersville, who died in October. Until the end, Eckels was an active civic leader who saw the value of the city’s ferry link across the Ohio River.

“John did a lot of wonderful things for Tyler County and Sistersville,” said Eckels’ longtime friend, the Rev. Bill Dawson, of First United Methodist Church in Sistersville. “John was instrumental in saving the Sistersville ferry. He was concerned about the citizens who worked in Ohio because that ferry was important to their livelihood.”