Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara
Possible Toledo mayoral contender Joe McNamara will dive into the politically risky issue of city water rates today, challenging Mayor Mike Bell to conduct an affordability study before proposing an increase in rates to fix the leaky water system.
Mr. McNamara, a Democrat and president of Toledo City Council, said the administration should update the 2010 Affordability Study to determine how burdensome water rates are.
He said that would take the politics out of the upcoming water rate debate.
Mr. Bell, a political independent, announced his intention to seek a second term as mayor in his annual State of the City Speech Monday. In that speech he warned that repairs are overdue to the city water system, and called on council to figure out what the new water rates should be.
“This water system needs to be fixed. We don’t have a whole lot of time,” he told his audience of business people at the Toledo Rotary Club luncheon at the Park Inn on Monday.
Mr. McNamara has scheduled a 9:30 a.m. news conference today in Government Center to explain his proposal.
He pointed out that water bills have already been increased, mainly to pay for the work required under the settlement from a lawsuit by the federal Environmental Protection Agency against sewage overflows into Toledo waterways.
Those rates were set after an affordability study was done in 2010 to determine the cost on the average Toledoan.
“Every member of Council wants faucets to run and toilets to flush, but no member wants to raise water rates beyond what is necessary,” Mr. McNamara said.
He said the updated study would provide objective information, including the rates paid by other water utilities.
“We have to be transparent with taxpayer dollars and transparent with the needs of the water system, while acknowledging what citizens can afford,” Mr. McNamara said.
In December, Mr. Bell told a council committee that the city was staring at a $257 million price tag to fix various parts of its aging drinking water treatment plant.
The mayor successfully pushed annual water and sewer rate increases through in 2010 and said previous city leaders ignored the need to raise water rates, which led to a deterioration of the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in East Toledo.
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