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Published: Tuesday, 6/2/2009

Public forum in Rossford set on rising water rates

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The way State Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) sees it, fighting over water in an area that has plenty of it is just crazy.

He wants to hear from residents in Rossford and other Wood County communities concerned about rising water rates. He and Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown are hosting a public forum at 7 p.m. June 4 at the Rossford Public Library, 720 Dixie Hwy.

"To have a region that has an abundant amount of fresh water fighting over water is ridiculous and to have communities demanding 40 percent of another community's income tax revenues and imposing very high water surcharges is unreasonable," Mr. Gardner said. "If water is an important economic development tool, then northwest Ohio can do better."

Rossford's last water contract with the city of Toledo expired recently and was not renewed after Rossford rejected Toledo's demand that in addition to charging Rossford residents a 115 percent surcharge on water, Rossford also pay Toledo 40 percent of its income tax revenue from the Crossroads of America.

Toledo already was receiving 27 percent of Rossford's income tax revenue from the sprawling commercial development but wanted its share to increase to 40 percent on income tax revenue over $400,000. Without a new contract, Toledo began charging a 125 percent surcharge to Rossford residents beginning Feb. 27.

In response to the debate, city, county, and township officials have been meeting to explore alternatives. Last month, Wood County commissioners agreed to help fund a study that would look at the feasibility of bringing water from Ottawa County to northern Wood County.

Rossford Administrator Ed Cieka said city officials welcome the intervention from the county and state levels. He said Rossford does not expect its residents to get water at the same price that Toledo residents pay, but the tax-sharing demands are unacceptable.

"We recognize we're a customer of another municpality. It's the amount of income tax sharing that the city of Toledo is demanding," Mr. Cieka said. "... They were asking for greater sharing of income tax without providing any service other than the water which they charge for so that's been our point. If we're sharing income tax, we still have to provide services."

While the debate would seem to be a local one, Mr. Gardner said he's not so sure.

He's looking into whether there are any legal restrictions on water contracts between local governments. Specifically, he said, he wants to know, "Where there's an existing contract ready to expire can the other entity request any amount of tax revenue or size of a surcharge in order to restore the contract?"

While he said it might be difficult to try to legislate limits, he favors finding ways to have local governments work together.

He said he also would like to look at the possibility of accessing some of the federal stimulus money directed to water projects.

"If economic development is a key critieria, I think we could show water is very important to northwest Ohio and a more cooperative, collaborative system would mean more or better jobs for northwest Ohio," Mr. Gardner said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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