By Sean Dunlap
Town of Meadville officials are still calculating the amount of damage to some of their heavy machinery and equipment following a chemical leak occurring several months ago, according to Mayor Lane Reed.
“We had a significant chlorine leak over the July 4 weekend and that has become more significant as time has gone on,” Reed said during the Board of Aldermen meeting held Tuesday, Sept. 8.
“Because of the leak, we’ve had some kind of problem with just about every piece of equipment in the town barn. Now, there is at least some thought, we might have chlorine in the concrete, which I didn’t know could even happen.”
Reed said the extent of damage has prompted the town’s leadership to work with its insurance providers to hopefully recover from the situation.
The mayor said items damaged by the leak included a Ford tractor with short arm, all four generators and the town’s backhoe, which he described as having major problems.
“The stabilizer bars were damaged as were the hydraulics, sensors and controls,” Reed noted. “We received a quote of $41,000 to fix it … that makes it a pretty significant problem.”
Town Clerk Leslie Thompson said this price could actually fluctuate depending on what might be found once repairs begin.
Alderman Charles Calcote added pretty much everything on the backhoe — as he has seen it — “is ruined.”
To this end, Reed said the town is in the process of reviewing its insurance coverage, in the form of existing property and inland marine policies it maintains in the event of a mishap.
“Right now, we’ve got to get quotes on the cost of everything,” Reed continued. “We’re hoping the big generator, which was farthest away from the leak, is not significantly damaged.
“We’ve been told both of the little generators are probably shot and there are issues with the new light bank generator. That’s pretty much where we are.”
Calcote said the problem comes from the chlorine gas that leaked into the building and made contact with anything with metallic content.
“Chlorine is highly corrosive and we’re seeing the results of that,” he said. “It can make a new piece of metal, when exposed, look like its been left out in the weather for years.”
The leak appears to have originated from a chlorine cylinder which had been stored — out of direct sunlight — at the barn.
“We don’t use a tremendous amount of chlorine,” Reed said. “And we’re looking for ways to more safely store these cylinders in the future.”
The mayor said the town was fortunate in the fact no employees were exposed to the chlorine, which can cause severe illness or even death depending on exposure.
Calcote said the chlorine cylinders, in the past, were kept outside near the town water’s barn, but the health department told town leaders not to keep the units in the sunshine and that’s why they were in the barn.
Reed said he would keep the board updated on the situation in future meetings.
In other action, the Meadville Board of Aldermen:
• Issued a resolution honoring the service of Gene Harold Ward, who worked as the town’s water and street superintendent between 1989 and 2006.
The document, read by Reed, also cited Ward’s work beyond retirement as a public works consultant to the town.
Ward, who worked for Herring Gas and Illinois Central Gulf railroad, and was also self-employed for a number of years.
His involvement as a Mason and in the Meadville Baptist Church were also cited in the proclamation.
“This is a way for us to recognize, honor and remember Mr. Gene for his hard work and devotion to the town,” Reed said in making the presentation.
Members of Ward’s family were on hand to accept a copy of the document, which was also entered into the meeting minutes.
• Briefly discussed a no-thru truck ordinance revision — which could potentially include axle, weight, height and width restrictions for large trucks on municipal streets.
Reed indicated the matter would likely be spotlighted during the panel’s October meeting as elements of the proposal are still under review by municipal leaders.
“We want to get something for our police department and our town prosecutor that works and they are not afraid to enforce nor prosecute,” Reed said.
• Heard a balance report from Reed related to existing infrastructure loans held by the town.
The balance remaining on a Department of Environmental Quality sewer loan stands at $41,175.29 and $200,669.83 remains on a United States Department of Agriculture water tank loan.
• Thompson said the town’s privilege taxes have begun rolling in as September is the month for businesses within the community to renew their licenses.
• Approved the town’s budget for fiscal year 2021 with no objections from the public.
• Transferred $21,112.92 from the town’s water and sewer fund to the general fund to cover Department of Environmental Quality payments from sales taxes.