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Henry calls water crisis life-changing

Civil engineer says it will take time to restore community’s trust

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Warren Henry, the new program manager for water-plant upgrades, attends a City Council meeting on Monday. He reached out to the Collins administration and offered his help after watching the water crisis unfold.

THE BLADE/LORI KING
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The man who will oversee the $264 million campaign to upgrade Toledo’s water treatment plant called the recent water crisis a shocking event that destroyed the community’s faith in the quality of the local water.

Warren Henry said the Aug. 2-4 do-not-drink warning for more than 500,000 water customers was a life-changing event for him as well as other Toledo-area residents. He said it will take time, but the trust can be restored.

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He plans to use his experience from more than 30 years as a consultant with other municipalities to help upgrade the infrastructure at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant and to create a new sense of collaboration and cooperation among the city, the suburbs, and the county, he said.

Placing Mr. Henry in charge of the plant improvements will allow Tim Murphy, the city’s commissioner of water treatment, to focus on the water plant’s daily operations, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said last week.

Mr. Henry, who has had a long career in civil engineering, will transition over the next 30 days from his position as the vice president of transportation at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments to become the program manager for the water plant. He said his office will be in the water plant near the construction site.

The city has planned a $300 million project to replace equipment, make structural improvements, upgrade electrical systems and expand the water plant’s capacity. The project is funded with rate increases City Council approved last year and is scheduled for completion in 2019.

His $84,000 salary will come from funds already dedicated to the water plant upgrade, said mayoral spokesman Lisa Ward. It will not come from the general fund.

Mr. Henry said his new salary represents a $7,000 to $8000 pay cut from his position at TMACOG. He added that he reached out to the Collins administration and offered his help after watching the water crisis unfold. The negotiations began with the city on Aug. 11 and the city offered Mr. Henry the position four days later.

Before joining the council of governments, Mr. Henry was Toledo’s commissioner of engineering services in 2006 and 2007.

He came to Toledo in 1972 to work for the engineering services company Finkbeiner, Pettis & Strout Inc. Mr. Henry said he became a consultant and helped other cities dealing with regulatory or environmental problems with their wastewater and water facilities.

“I was often brought into situations of conflict,” he said.

He helped Mansfield in the 1980s when that city was involved in litigation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “They needed to make immediate improvements to their wastewater system and we laid out a seven-year plan of improvement,” Mr. Henry said.

“Some of the strategies I employed there I intend to bring here,” he said.

Mr. Henry said his job is to do more than improve the infrastructure at the plant. He plans to use a “holistic, comprehensive approach” to help rebuild the community’s trust in the water coming out of the plant. This will include regular public meetings to provide updates on the project similar to the style of meeting TMACOG uses to give updates on road repair projects, he said.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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