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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

City won't send water to western neighbors

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford yesterday rejected a proposal from Lucas County commissioners that would send city water to the western part of the county in exchange for some control of economic development in the area and possible tax revenues.

“I'm not in favor of anything that is going to generate massive sprawl,” Mr. Ford said.

In its June 13 proposal to the mayor, the commissioners suggested that the most immediate need for water be confined to single-family homes where wells are running dry.

Initially, 200 residents in the village of Berkey and along the Richfield Center Road corridor in Richfield Township would have been served.

Providence and Harding townships would not be served because they currently do not have land use plans.

But the agreement also eventually would have opened up water in portions of Spencer and Springfield townships, Jim Shaw, the county's sanitary engineer, said.

That proposal irked Mr. Ford.

“What started out as a promise that I would try to get some water to the people in Berkey, as I feared, now is a request to open up the spigot to everyone,” he said.

In their latest plea to Toledo to extend water lines to western Lucas County residents with dwindling well reserves, the commissioners had sought to appease the mayor's concern that water lines and sewer services lure developers outside the city limits.

To that end, they proposed that any large-scale development would be subject not only to normal zoning requirements and land use plans by the local governments, but also to the city of Toledo.

Further, the county hinted that it could work out some type of tax-revenue sharing for any development along the new water lines.

Mr. Ford said such incentives do little for Toledo.

“They're trying to sweeten the deal to say there is money to be made. You get a modest amount of dollars for the water. But [you also get] a loss of population and a loss of tax base for Toledo,” he said

Mr. Ford said the county's proposal was premature. He called for forming a regional entity to study the issues of transferring city water and sewage services and sprawl.

The idea of such an authority has been suggested from time to time, but it has never really been pursued.

“It needs to be looked at,” Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Shaw said he was disappointed with Mayor Ford's response that was dated Tuesday, but received yesterday. “Frankly, I thought we'd addressed all their concerns,” he said.

The county's three commissioners yesterday each said he and she would also like to pursue Mr. Ford's “uni-government suggestion,” but added that such a study and its implementation could take years.

“My concern is that these individuals need water pretty quickly,” Commissioner Maggie Thurber said.

Harry Barlos, president of the board, said residents who run out of water are not simply going to move into Toledo, they could relocate to Wood or Fulton counties or elsewhere with water service.

He too pointed to the urgency of the issue.

“The issue here is that we have Lucas County residents hauling in water on a weekly basis in the rain and snow and whatever,” he said. “They need water now.”

Mr. Ford agreed Berkey citizens deserve water. The question is how to do it without expanding elsewhere.

“You could run a very narrow line that will service their needs only, limit their number of taps, and have a tightly drawn contract,” he said.

Mr. Ford is not running away from the issue. He visited Berkey last night.

“I'm going to listen to the folks,” he said. “But they have to listen to our perspective. I'm not going to do anything that's going to increase the amount of sprawl”

Blade staff writer George J. Tanber contributed to this report.



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