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Councilman chides mayor over surprise fee for water

A Toledo coun­cil­man on Thurs­day blasted the Bell ad­min­is­tra­tion for im­pos­ing a $200 de­posit on all new wa­ter ac­counts and for push­ing through the ex­pense on new home­own­ers with­out warn­ing.

“First, this coun­cil­man was never no­ti­fied that there was an in­crease in this fee,” Coun­cil­man Rob Lude­man, who is a Real­tor, wrote in an email to Mayor Mike Bell and some of the mayor’s top of­fi­cials.

“The real es­tate in­dus­try was never no­ti­fied … I am not sure why there was no trans­par­ency in this move, but I will be ask­ing Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Joe McNamara to hold a pub­lic hear­ing just as we do on all fee in­creases,” he said. “Hav­ing en­dured the hous­ing cri­sis first hand the last five years and fi­nally see­ing the ‘light at the end of the tun­nel,’ this is not the time to make home own­er­ship, es­pe­cially in the city of Toledo, more costly and dif­fi­cult.”

Dave Welch, Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties di­rec­tor, told The Blade on Wed­nes­day the $200 de­posit was re­quired only from cus­tom­ers want­ing wa­ter ser­vice be­fore Oct. 1, 2012, but it now is re­quired from ev­ery­one.

Mr. Welch said the $200 is cred­ited to­ward a cus­tomer’s fi­nal bill when ser­vice is ter­mi­nated.

Mr. Lude­man and Coun­cil­man D. Mi­chael Collins found that un­pal­at­able.

Both coun­cil­men said the de­posit should be re­funded af­ter a pe­riod of time the cus­tomer has stayed cur­rent on the bill. They both ac­knowl­edged home­own­ers who de­cide to stay in the same house for de­cades will never re­coup the fee.

“So it’s ba­si­cally a fee,” Mr. Collins said.

The de­posit was ex­panded in part be­cause the city’s wa­ter and sewer sys­tems need big re­pairs. It is meant to al­le­vi­ate de­lin­quen­cies, which the city ag­gres­sively has sought to cur­tail by le­gally pur­su­ing peo­ple who are be­hind in their bills and even pros­e­cut­ing those who steal wa­ter af­ter a shut­off.

Under the city pol­icy, some­one buy­ing a mul­ti­unit build­ing with mul­ti­ple wa­ter me­ters must pay the $200 de­posit for each unit.

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Joe McNamara sched­uled a hear­ing on the topic for 4 p.m. Feb. 4.

Con­tact Igna­zio Messina at:imessina@the­blade.comor 419-724-6171.

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