MANSFIELD -- Richland Engineering Ltd. was selected Tuesday to define the scope of a "seven figure" sanitary sewer project in Bellville that will open the door to additional economic development.
Richland County commissioners approved a $43,344 contract with the Mansfield firm to begin the preliminary design phase of a project that will upgrade and/or replace the sewer system from Bellville-Johnsville Road past the Love's Travel Stop to the west of I-71.
"The purpose of this is two-fold, right?" Commissioner Tony Vero said. "Let's maintain what we have while we go in and make the system capable to handle future development."
The unanimous decision came after commissioners met with Patrick Schwan, principal engineer for REL, and Amanda Miller, the county's wastewater treatment director.
The project, funded through the county's share of American Rescue Plan Act dollars, will replace more than 21,000 feet of linear pipe and perhaps replace and add needed lift stations to accommodate future development.
The work is being done in the area of a proposed $22 million YMCA of North Central Ohio sports complex. Additional commercial and residential development appears to be in the offing in the area, though commissioners have offered no specifics.
County administrator Andrew Keller said Richland Engineering submitted the best qualifications for the project, first announced in September.
"We're antsy to get started," Keller said. "We have been talking about it for several months. We are excited to have Mr. Schwan with Richland Engineering helping the county on this project."
The plan calls for the sewage system, built by Richland County in 1980, to be improved and then transferred to the Village of Bellville's control.
Schwan said REL had "some involvement" when the original sewer system was installed.
"So we have some of that history and we have a lot of history, obviously, around this area working on things," he said.
"We actually are going to work on this in parts. The first part, after we had some conversations initially, was to kind of define what it's gonna look like as far as meeting the budget that you're gonna have available for doing the work down there.
"And then making sure that all of the items are addressed for some of the potential future development or upcoming development that's occurring along the (Ohio 97) corridor," Schwan said.
Schwan said some of the existing sewer infrastructure has outlived its lifespan and is ready for improvement. He said the first part of the project will involve data collection, including learning the capacity of the regional sewer plant in Butler.
"Amanda and I will work together to define the scope of what will actually be in the detailed design plans that will be used to bid out the project when it's all compiled," Schwan said.
He said his firm will spend 2023 doing the preliminary work with the goal of seeking bids for the project next year. Under ARPA guidelines, all money must be appropriated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
"There's just a lot of projects that are coming out similar to what your project is," Schwan said. "We want to make sure we're keeping the public in tune, because contractors start to put this on their list of things that are upcoming and they can plan for it accordingly.
"This is a sizable project so it's going to attract a lot of interest. I don't know that we're going to be complete in 2024. I would say you're probably talking about 2025 for completion," Schwan said.
Miller said it's too soon to offer a cost estimate for the project beyond the "seven figures" offered by commissioners.
"That's why we're doing the preliminary (work). We don't know how to narrow that down until we gather all the data and have discussions on what we're trying to do," Miller said.
"We don't want to put a (dollar) figure on it and say one way or the other until we've had the time to discuss it and get through this," she said.
Miller sad the work is necessary due to the age of the system and its capacity.
"With the commitments that we have right now, with the new hotel that's being built and everything else we know that we're going to end up with, there is a need for more capacity and bigger pumps and just more accessibility down there," Miller said.
"It will be a a long-term investment and a great investment of the funds that we are receiving from ARPA to help strengthen the infrastructure that we have.
"I hope that everything works out as planned so that we can con eventually convey it to Bellville in a great condition and ready to keep working for many years to come," Miller said.
Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership.
City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"