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Published: Monday, 9/13/2010

Lucas County water-bill discount gets tepid response

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County officials expected seniors to jump at the opportunity for a break on their water bills, but so far, the number of applications has been meager.

"Providing this to seniors was done at very little cost, and it was important to do so," said County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. "We felt like we were one of the few places in the state doing this, we fought for this issue, and we want people to know."

The commissioners passed legislation nearly three months ago to provide water at a discounted rate to senior citizens of low and moderate income levels in unincorporated parts of Lucas County.

The savings would total $30 to $35 a year. Those interested in the discount must be over 65 or on permanent disability. They must apply in writing and meet income qualifications. For a family of four, that's $49,450 or less, Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said.

The city of Toledo already offers a senior discount regardless of income or disability. The county discount is identical to one for seniors served by Toledo and Oregon.

The county estimated that as many as 3,000 households in unincorporated areas are eligible, meaning a possible $100,000 shortfall in receipts if all seek the discount.

Just 240 Lucas County water customers were receiving the discount as of last week.

The county system has slightly fewer than 24,000 water customers in , and 12,219 homes in Lucas County - excluding Toledo - have a homestead exemption.

Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said she worked for years to get Lucas County the ability to offer the discount.

"We had to get the legislature to approve permissive authority to provide water discounts for citizens who live in Lucas County," she said.

As a state agent, Lucas County could not match the discount for unincorporated areas without the Ohio General Assembly passing legislation.

"There was a gentleman who lived in Washington Township, and right across the street was the city of Toledo and he knew his neighbors got a discount and qualified for a homestead exemption but he did not," Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said.

The revenue loss will not affect the county's general operating budget, and it is not expected to have a large impact on the county's $7.5 million budget for water and sanitation programs.

Details on how to apply, including the required forms, are posted on the county's Web site, www.co.lucas.oh.us.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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