Lopez calls on city to prioritize water line repairs

Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who is running for mayor, says she has a plan to avoid water line problems.
Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who is running for mayor, says she has a plan to avoid water line problems.

Mayoral candidate Anita Lopez today blasted the management of the city's aging water and sewer line system saying she would identify potential disasters - like the sinkhole that opened up last week on Detroit Avenue - and prioritize spending to fix those problems.

Ms. Lopez, the Lucas County auditor, said she would hire an outside engineer to assess which water lines are in dangerous condition.

"The sinkhole that happened last week is another sign of the problem we're facing with an administration that has not been transparent," Ms. Lopez said. "I will call for an audit of every dollar and every transaction that is taking place. We need to know how we're [paying for] addressing the problems of Toledo's water and sewer lines."

She said she tried to call the water department today and was told by a recorded voice that hers was the 30th call waiting to be answered, and vowed that if she is elected every call to the Department of Public Utilities would be answered by a live person.

"If you can't get your staff to answer the phones in a timely manner it scares me how you're going to handle 1800[-era] water and sewer lines that should have been addressed years ago," Ms. Lopez said.

The road surface on Detroit Avenue near Bancroft Street suddenly opened up Wednesday, causing a car to fall into the hole. The driver was not injured. City officials said they are working on repairing two large century-old sewer lines and a water line that were damaged in the cave-in.

A spokesman for Mayor Mike Bell said the mayor began warning council in 2010, his first year in office, that the city needed to raise rates to begin updating its water lines, and council approved a water rate increase this year. Spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said the city inspects 50 miles of sewer line annually. She said she did not know when the sewer lines that collapsed under Detroit Avenue were last inspected.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.