Mayor Mike Bell's administration today will explain its controversial new $200 water security deposit to Toledo City Council, as a Tea Party group is launching a demand for a performance audit before the city can raise rates.
The meeting, set for 4 p.m., is not to discuss the proposed new water rates that Mayor Bell has called for, but rather to justify the $200 security deposits the city started levying on new residential users in October.
The hearing is being held by the Utilities and Public Service Committee chaired by Council President Joe McNamara.
John McAvoy, who lives in Millbury, Ohio in Wood County, and heads the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition, has called on members to turn up the pressure on the city to conduct a performance audit.
The group has urged its members to telephone every councilman and the mayor and tell them, "do a complete and Comprehensive Performance Audit before you allow any more rate or fee increases."
The same group opposed a $13.3 million Toledo Public Schools' levy in November unless the district agreed to an independent performance audit. The levy was defeated and the school district has hired a private firm to conduct an audit.
Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Mayor Bell, said the $200 security deposit and the forthcoming water rate proposals are the result of an examination of the city's water system by the city itself and by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The fee is reimbursed to the user after one year if bills are paid up.
Ms. Sorgenfrei said the EPA has informed the city that its water treatment system is badly in need of repair and must act promptly to raise the capital to begin making improvements. She said the purpose of the $200 fee was to make sure that all water users are paying their water bill before the city starts going after users for increased rates.
The EPA's 2012 study looked at eight aspects of the city's fresh water system, including "management and operation."
"The EPA has looked at our system and they've said, 'you have some serious problems, find the capital and fix them,'" Ms. Sorgenfrei said.
"The Toledo water plant is running 'on the edge' on a regular basis with relatively little room for error," the EPA study noted.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.