Representatives from the City of Toledo and its nine water customers agreed to move forward with a regional bulk water system, but how to govern such a system is far from reaching consensus.
The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments Regional Water Planning Committee met this morning for the first time since Toledo, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Fulton County, Lucas County, Monroe County, Whitehouse, Waterville, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District officials all pledged support for a regional water authority.
“This is very good progress. I can’t tell you how pleased and excited I am, and hopefully your communities are as well,” said Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, who chairs the TMACOG committee. “To think back to when we first met six months ago, this sort of show of support and progress made would almost have been inconceivable.”
In this room at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in Toledo, new paddles have been installed to improve flocculation as part of the water treatment process.
Committee members discussed two options for how to legally shape a new regional system.
The first option is to form a regional water board comprised of one representative from each customer and two representatives from Toledo, since the city still owns the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.
The second option, to form a regional water district under state law that would be governed by an appointed board, garnered the most support today.
“[That option] does provide a lot of flexibility and we could have it look like whatever we want it to look like,” said Carol Contrada, a Lucas County commissioner and TMACOG committee member.
Suburban water customers are wary of forming a regional water board because it is unclear how much governing power the city of Toledo would be willing to give up in that scenario. Toledo City Council was the last governing board to approve a nonbinding agreement to move forward with a regional water system, but officials altered language in the agreement regarding what type of governing structure Toledo would support.
Other communities approved resolutions for a cooperative partnership that “gives all participating jurisdictions a meaningful, governing voice in its operation and rates.” Toledo officials amended their resolution to exclude the meaningful governance language.
“Without meaningful governance, there’s no way I could recommend it, and frankly I don’t ever see it passing, from Perrysburg’s perspective,” Perrysburg Mayor Mike Olmstead said. “The best choice is everyone participating, but it’s got to be on a level playing field.”
Toledo councilman Lindsay Webb, a longtime supporter of a regional water system, asked other committee members to recognize Toledo’s unique situation because it owns the Collins plant and related infrastructure.
“While we have the greatest risk, we should probably have more control. As our risk diminishes so then, too, should our control,” she said.
Committee members agreed to schedule an informational meeting ahead of TMACOG’s next committee meeting in February to analyze the benefits and drawbacks to forming a water district under state law before making any decisions. A presentation date has yet to be set.