No matter the season, North Ridgeville’s Public Works Director Jon Montgomery and his team are out in full force to ensure what needs to run smoothly will.
“Our department is a seven-in-one department: streets, water, sewer, stormwater, wastewater treatment, city garage and grounds maintenance,” he explains. “Basically, any infrastructure that is above or below ground, we maintain or service in some way.”
He notes that the department has 68 employees to the city’s 37,000 residents. “We try our best to prioritize and get to those issues in the quickest manner we can,” he says.
During warm weather months, the department turns its attention to pavement preservation including patching and crack sealing, in addition to repaving. Twelve to 15 roads are resurfaced annually. In 2023 that volume of work equated to 7,000 tons of asphalt.
“Many other municipalities don’t pave their own roads,” Montgomery says. “Instead, they sub out the labor, which makes it very costly for their city. Our program is all done in-house, which saves the city and taxpayers money every year.”
With the arrival of fall, the crew prepares for what lies ahead. The trucks used to pave roads are outfitted with snowplows, salt spreaders and liquid deicers. They travel throughout 18 designated zones in the city to clear all roads while prioritizing main routes to keep traffic moving.
In significant storm events, the team uses a GPS system to pinpoint areas critically affected by flooding. Working closely with other city departments, Montgomery and his staff schedule projects that include stormwater retention, rehabilitation of structures and cleaning of major and minor ditches.
Water and sewer personnel ensure the reliability of the city’s water system through replacement and repairs of water lines, valves, hydrants and pumping stations. Routine sampling and testing are critical to ensuring water is safe to drink and falls below thresholds for bacteria, lead and certain chemicals. Other responsibilities include water pressure testing, cleaning catch basins and sanitary sewer lines and maintaining lift stations. Crews mark utility locations that are requested by OUPS, numbering 5,000 locations per year.
Grounds maintenance staff make needed repairs to city buildings and provide mowing and weeding in the city’s parks and municipal cemeteries.
“We do very detailed mowing in the cemeteries,” Montgomery says. “We were subbing the work out, but we took it over to maintain a higher level of professionalism. Loved ones are there, and if the grounds are not maintained properly up to a certain standard, we feel that’s unacceptable.”
Many of us don’t give a second thought to the dirty water that swirls down our sinks and tubs — much less what we flush down our toilets — day in and day out. But Corey Timko does. As superintendent of the French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, he oversees water purification for the communities of North Ridgeville, Avon and Sheffield — which amounts to 7 million gallons per day, 24/7.
“Everything that goes down your drain, we get,” Timko says with a laugh, “and that doesn’t include the water we recycle from storm sewers during heavy rains and melting snow.”
Currently, the plant disinfects water through the use of an activated sludge process in which aeration and biological nutrients accelerate the decomposition process that takes place in nature and breaks down bacteria. What’s left is clear water that’s treated and sent on to Lake Erie via the French Creek Stream and the Black River before being pulled from the lake and made potable by the communities’ respective water departments.
For the most part, Timko says, the plant can handle just about anything biodegradable we discard down our sewer pipes.
But it’s other items that find their way there that cause consternation.
“Through the years, we’ve encountered plastic pipes and toys — and even bricks that were once used to construct sewers — that are tough to deal with,” he says. “But rags and even flushable wipes that people discard rope together as they tumble down and wind around themselves. That really clogs up the process.”