ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (WTRF) – Water is our most precious resource and the battle over who owns the water in St. Clairsville is heating up.
On Monday night, another protest was held in front of the St. Clairsville Municipal Building by citizens who are against a private company owning the city’s water.
Last month, 7News reported that the City of St. Clairsville had been exploring the possibility of selling their municipal water and sewage company to Aqua Ohio, which bills itself as “Ohio’s oldest and largest regulated utility.”
Opinions have been strong on both sides. Officials said the water lines are old and leaking, and the water plant is in bad shape. But on June 28, we reported that St. Clairsville Mayor Terry Pugh had dissolved an advisory committee considering selling off the city’s water and sewage systems.
Residents looking for a more deliberative approach to the issue have expressed outrage on social media and Monday’s protest is the largest to date. In fact, the protest even brought out the Mayor.
When asked by one of the protest’s organizers, Kathryn Thalman, if he would field questions from concerned citizens, Mayor Pugh responded by saying “I will not.” But he eventually took the microphone.
“I’m willing to talk one-on-one with you or in a group in my office,” said Mayor Pugh. “I’ve never seen any of you come up to my office.”
The protestors mainly said that they just want answers as to what the city council is up to. One point that was mentioned several times is the fact that council chambers can only accommodate a handful of the city’s residents, which does not allow the majority of the population to attend these meetings.
Some concerned citizens even offered their own ideas on how to work towards resolving this issue.
“I came from Wheeling, okay, and they had the same problem in Wheeling with the water over there,” said Frank Papini, a current St. Clairsville resident. “And people said no we’re going to handle it ourselves. It seems to me that it worked out pretty darn well. There was an increase, they paid for it but it’s their’s and they don’t have to worry about anybody else coming in and stealing your money.”
Papini says that with all of the taxes and the rise in oil and gas jobs in the area, he doesn’t understand why the city can’t use some of that money to take care of its water system.
It is still not clear whether or not the city will sell it’s water system. We will continue to follow the St. Clairsville water situation both on-air and on our website.