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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Toledo councilman wants to double storm water fee

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins yesterday floated the idea of doubling the city's monthly storm water assessment to drastically cut the number of years it would take to complete $44 million in improvements the city needs for storm water control.

The current $3.16 assessment is charged on Toledo water bills and generates about $8 million annually.

"After they collect that and pay down debt service from other things they already have to pay, the city is left with only $1.5 million," Mr. Collins said during a committee-of-the-whole meeting. "At that rate, it would take 35 years to complete those [$44 million in] projects and that is not reasonable."

He said doubling the assessment would allow the city to complete the same number of projects in just over six years.

David Leffler, Toledo's director of public utilities, said another option would be to issue bonds to pay for the projects, which includes ditch improvements and other measures to control flooding during heavy rain.

Mr. Collins said bonding too much debt could "put the city in the bloody poorhouse."

Storm water control has been a controversial issue for the city.

In 2006, Crawford Avenue residents suffered flood damage severe enough to prompt a federal disaster declaration.

A lawsuit filed that year blamed the city of Toledo and others for floods that summer. That suit named the city, the Lucas County commissioners, Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley, CSX Transportation, Arcadis G&M of Ohio, Norfolk Southern Corp., and BP Pipelines North America Inc. as defendants.

The suit accused the defendants of design and maintenance failures with the Shantee Creek and Haefner Ditch.

Two homeowners who were among dozens of residents in a West Toledo neighborhood besieged again by damaging floodwaters this summer filed a class-action lawsuit July 3 against the city and county commissioners.

The lawsuit demands a court order to compel an investigation by a neutral engineer about why taxpayer money spent so far has not solved the flooding problems in that area. The suit also seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

To alleviate flooding in the area, Toledo is spending $3 million on a four-phase project to widen Shantee Creek.

Councilman Lindsay Webb yesterday said the city has fignored the problem for years and residents such as those on Crawford are paying the price.

She said Mud Creek, which runs through Detwiler Park in Point Place, has not been cleaned by the city for years and as a result, has caused flooding for adjacent property owners.

Councilman Mike Ashford indicated increasing the storm water assessment would be asking for too much.

Mr. Ashford said people already are paying increased city fees, such as the rate for garbage collection.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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