Leaders from Toledo and the eight communities that buy its water are poised to bring in a consultant to help them cooperatively form a regional water district, and they may not have to spend ratepayer funds to do it.
Water slowly filters in pools inside the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant, the venue at the heart of discussions about a regional water authority in the area.
Four representatives from the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments’ regional water committee agreed Thursday it would be best for the committee to accept a Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce offer to select and pay for the facilitator.
The consensus among Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, the committee’s chairman, and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, and Monroe County Drain Commissioner David Thompson came after the small group met with chamber leaders to discuss 10 potential consultants’ resumes.
Their ultimate choice was Eric Rothstein, who advised the 2016 formation of the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit and was suggested by the chamber.
“Everybody whose name was submitted was given thought and process to it,” Mr. Gerken said. “There was a lot of back-and-forth, and at the end of the day we have a recommendation.”
The group now must bring its recommendation to the full TMACOG regional water committee for consideration. Members likely will vote on the matter April 27. If so, Mr. Rothstein can begin work immediately.
Mayor Stough said he is pleased by the progress. The committee has debated for months how to equalize water rates, increase water safety, and give each community a fair say in how Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant is managed.
He hopes a facilitator’s guidance will help the group establish a water district under state law, governed by an appointed board all players can agree on.
“I feel very good about it,” Mayor Stough said. “These are solid steps forward to discussing and establishing a regional water authority which will benefit all parts of the community.”
The chamber’s offer was not favored at first by all representatives on the TMACOG committee. Mr. Gerken initially expressed concern chamber officials would want more control over the decision-making process than he’d be comfortable with if they paid the bill.
But he said Thursday’s meeting eased those worries, and he believes Mr. Rothstein is a good fit for the job.
“I think everybody brought a positive attitude to the table,” Mr. Gerken said. “All my concerns and reservations were addressed through a thoughtful and frank discussion with the chamber.”
Chamber President Wendy Gramza said they offered to pay for a consultant because finding a solution to safe, affordable water is important to all ratepayers in the region, including thousands of businesses.
“We’re happy that in a very short period of time everybody really realized it’s a great way to move forward and will ensure that we’re successful in the end,” she said. “We don’t have a specific outcome in mind. We just want to make sure that we get to an outcome that is successful for the entire region.”