Former Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner speaks during an opposition meeting regarding the proposed selling or leasing of the Toledo city water system into a regional water system.
This past week, The Blade has twice commented upon the status of a regional water agreement. There are regions of this country who have such an agreement in place. There are also an equal number, if not greater number of communities where such an agreement is not in place, and the largest city and/or county in that region delivers potable water to the region, with individual cities within that region paying a fair and agreeable price for the water they are being provided. Either system has its boosters. And, both systems can work efficiently.
In this corner of Ohio, Toledo built the city’s water treatment plant in 1941, for an estimated $10 million. Since that time, many improvements have been made to the Collins Park Plant and the pipelines, pump stations, storage tanks, and lagoons, which have added up to an estimated value of $943,000,000. That number was thoroughly and professionally reached and defined by an engineering firm, hired by the Toledo Metro Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) in 2012 to analyze and appraise Toledo’s water system.
Since 2012, the city of Toledo has begun the process of making $500,000,000 in improvements to modernize the Collins Park facility. That has increased the value of Toledo’s water system substantially since the TMACOG study estimated its worth at $943,000,000 in 2012. To date, the professionally appraised value of Toledo’s water system has not been recognized by those who wish to purchase the system from Toledo.
Former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, in a letter dated Nov. 22, 2017, and addressed to the consultant hired to put a regional water system together, raised another very valuable concern: “Discussions on a regional district have not gone far enough in that they fail to explore the better 6119 option — the option of including storm and sanitary utilities in the district as well as potable water. I continue to believe that regionalism would work best if all the utilities are involved...This fractured approach is not a true regional system...and prevents the citizens of the proposed district from benefiting fully from regionalism.”
I believe Ms. Hicks-Hudson was and is right on target. In addition, she was right on target with a further statement: “The proposed make-up of the board is not equitable...Toledo will bear 60 percent of the operating costs but have only 28 percent voice on the Board.”
EDITORIAL: Toledo's water impasse
There is a water impasse at this time for a very simple reason. Unlike Erie, Pa., and other regions that have moved forward regionally, the proposal put on the table in Toledo, by a consultant and about 15 others working quietly out-of-sight, gutted Toledo’s water system financially, put up for sale only that part of the system the suburbs want, our water, and tried to push it through without a vote of Toledoans. And, at the end of all that chicanery, Toledoans would be paying 60 percent of the bill and have 28 percent of the votes on the regional board governing the new water operation.
Former congressman Dennis Kucinich called this one-sided proposal “grand theft water.”
If we are going to further consider a regional water system, let’s get in our cars and drive to Erie, Detroit,and other cities that have, with integrity and justice for all, moved to the regional water concept. Protect Our Water, of which I am just one of many members, will explore all options that strengthen not only our water infrastructure, but other public avenues of regional governance in northwest Ohio.
Carty Finkbeiner is the former mayor of Toledo.
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