Plans for a regional water system will move forward after the city of Toledo approved a nonbinding resolution today supporting such a system.
The city joined Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Fulton County, Lucas County, Monroe County, Whitehouse, Waterville, and Northwestern Water and Sewer in approving the resolution, which will enable discussions and plans to progress at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments’ Regional Water Planning Committee meeting Wednesday morning.
The regional plan would standardize rates for all of the stakeholders, a sticking point for the city of Toledo. Figures from January, 2016, through October show Toledo received 47 percent of its water revenue from city residents with 53 percent coming from suburban water customers, even though city water customers used 59 percent of the water provided by Collins Park, with the remaining 41 percent used by suburban water customers.
Equalizing rates for all stakeholders would likely mean increased rates for Toledo, but refusing to participate in the regional system could leave the city without customers for its water, leaving the city responsible for an increasing share of maintaining the aging Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.
"It's definitely a critical point in this process," Lucas County sanitary engineer Jim Shaw told The Blade.
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson supported the proposal for a new regional authority, saying the city needs to have redundancy to keep the water supply safe. She referred to the nearly three-day period in August, 2014, when Toledo’s water was fouled by a toxic algae and rendered undrinkable. The city has one intake from which it draws Lake Erie water and one treatment plant where it treats that lake water to be consumed by more than 500,000 regional customers.
Critics of the plan have said a regional authority would unfairly burden the city, which has already invested Toledo taxpayer money in the current water system.
“Toledoans built this system with their money,” former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. “How will Toledo get credit for the cost Toledoans have put into the water infrastructure and sewer infrastructure?”
Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.