Village leaders hope to have an engineering firm on board soon to concentrate on fixing Oak Harbor’s serious sewer overflow problems.
After weathering a number of missteps, village council fired its longtime engineer, Poggemeyer Design Group, of Bowling Green, earlier this fall. The pressure is on, however, to replace the firm by year’s end.
Oak Harbor has a request pending with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to open a critical combined sewer overflow (CSO) station on Portage Street to help relieve overflow stress. The village, however, must have its engineering firm in place before that can happen.
“The EPA is ready to open that valve Jan. 1. The last thing I want to do is put any delay on this because it affects the citizens of Oak Harbor,” Mayor Bill Eberle told village council at its regular Monday meeting. “I’m not trying to fast track the hiring. But the old council knows all the details.”
Elected terms wrap up at the end of the year for current council members Jon Fickert, Donna Wendt-Elliot and Angela Petersen.
Days after dropping Poggemeyer, the village began the advertising search for a new firm.
Eberle and a team of others including council and staff have whittled 10 applicants down to four serious contenders.
Those firms will give presentations at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at a special utilities committee meeting.
Based on those interviews, Eberle expects to recommend the hiring of an engineering firm at a special village council meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 12.
He asked council members who were not members of the committee to attend the interviews. Attending, he said, will allow all council members to be better educated on each company’s background.
Wendt-Elliot says good-bye
Mayor Eberle paid his respects to outgoing councilmember Donna Wendt-Elliot, who has spent nearly a quarter of a century serving Oak Harbor residents.
“Donna, since this is our last public meeting, I want to thank you for your years of service and your time on the various committees. I have truly appreciated it and respected your opinions,’ Eberle said.
Other council members took a chance to quip with the outgoing councilmember when a computer related topic came up and someone suggested asking her for advice. Wendt-Elliot has taken a stand to remain Internet and email-free.
“I’m sure everyone who is on council is on the Internet. You guys won’t have any fun anymore when I’m not here,” she said.
Employee morale questioned
Landlord Adam Snyder, a regular at village council meetings, stood to ask the mayor what is being done about the spiraling morale among village workers.
“What are you going to do about it,” Snyder pushed.
“I don’t know,” Eberle answered.
Snyder listed recent events including the firing and rehiring of Joe Reau and electric power division superintendent Barry Reau’s decision to leave a $25-an-hour job here for a $19 job in Genoa.
Snyder specifically pointed to the decisions and job performance of administrator Robert Pauley, who sat quietly at the table adjacent to council, for all the problems.
“They don’t feel comfortable because of Mr. Pauley. I think it’s a shame,” Snyder insisted.
Eberle countered that the morale issue began long before Pauley joined the village administration. He dated problems back to previous administrators Jon Liske and Tim Wilkins.
“But as I said before, this is not the forum for this,” Eberle told Snyder, regarding their previous conversations on the issue.
“Then where do we turn,” Snyder replied. “I’ve asked before.”