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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Toledo lowers water rates for Rossford, pending talks

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In an encouraging sign for Rossford, Toledo last week lowered rates on the water it supplies the Wood County city as a precursor to further negotiations on various issues.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell notified Rossford Mayor Bill Verbosky, Jr., that water rates for Rossford will be lowered starting Feb. 1 to the amount users in the smaller city paid under the expired contract. A year ago, Toledo under Mayor Carty Finkbeiner imposed a noncontract water rate on Rossford, costing the average resident $8.75 more a month.

Mayor Bell has indicated he is willing to work out the dispute over water and other issues, and his decision to lower the rate is appreciated, Mayor Verbosky said.

"It was a good-faith gesture on his part," he said.

Mayor Bell wants to address regional water concerns after Toledo works out a way to cover its $43.8 million general fund deficit, said Steve Herwat, Toledo's deputy mayor of operations.

While campaigning last year, Mayor Bell called for establishing a regional water compact to advise Toledo on the price of water sold to neighboring communities.

"We intend on having a broad regional water discussion with all of our customers," Mr. Herwat said. "Once we get beyond [the budget], that's our next move."

Sharing income-tax revenues from Rossford's Crossroads of America district and being involved with East Toledo casino builder Penn National Gaming Inc.'s plans are other topics that need to be addressed, Mr. Verbosky said. Penn National expects to build a casino by 2012 just across Rossford's border.

"I'm certain that there's going to be some further talks as far as all the other issues," Mayor Verbosky said.

Former Mayor Finkbeiner's administration pushed for higher water rates from Rossford and an increased share of Crossroads' income-tax revenue. Both the water and revenue-sharing contracts have expired, but Toledo continues to get 27 percent of income-tax revenue from Rossford's Crossroads of America district.

Mr. Herwat said Mayor Bell decided to rescind the higher water rate surcharge on Rossford after finding out another customer with whom a contract has expired, the South County Water District in Michigan, was not paying an increased fee. The district covers Bedford, Erie, and part of LaSalle townships and Luna Pier.

"Mayor Bell did not want to treat one of our suburban neighbors different from another," Mr. Herwat said.



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