Seven paid trustees would govern the proposed Toledo Area Water Authority, according to one of the latest drafts of a memorandum of understanding among the city of Toledo and the communities that buy its water.
The draft, obtained by The Blade, lays out how the authority would be created under Ohio law and how it would establish 30-year contracts among members. It also sets Dec. 4 as the date the communities should agree on terms before filing a petition to form the authority in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Dec. 29.
Toledo, Lucas County, Sylvania, Perrysburg, Maumee, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District have been meeting for more than a year to form a regional water district that keeps water safe and affordable for its consumers while giving each community a fair say in how Toledo's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant is managed.
The board of trustees of the authority would be comprised of seven voting members: two appointed by the Toledo mayor, one appointed by the Lucas County Commissioners; one appointed by the mayors of Sylvania, Maumee, and Whitehouse; one by the mayor of Perrysburg; one appointed by the Fulton County Commissioners and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District trustees and one appointed by the Lucas County Commissioners “on behalf, and at the behest of” the Monroe County drain commissioner.
One Toledo board member would have a four-year term while the others would have three-year terms.
They would be paid $25,000 a year but get an additional $15,000 annually for the first two years “in special additional compensation in recognition of the exceptional level of effort anticipated to carry out board member duties in this period,” the draft proposal said.
It also sets standards for the board members — requiring at least five to have four-year college degrees and at least seven years of experience “in a regulated industry, utility or industrial operation, or providing professional engineering, finance, accounting, or legal services.”
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said she had not seen the latest draft — which is the eighth version of the document — and could not comment on the specific details.
“I asked that we have a facilitator to help take out some of the misconceptions that folks had and take a look at the hard part of coming together to create a water authority,” Mayor Hicks-Hudson said.
“It is complicated because you have different entities looking at it from different perspectives,” she said.
The mayor said she had not considered who she would appoint to the board.
The proposed agreement dictates it would act by simple majority vote, except when a super majority — five votes — is required for things like hiring a general manager or executive director; approving rates, fees, and charges, and borrowing money.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said one of the biggest hurdles for creating such an authority has been determining ownership of the city’s water treatment plant and other system assets.
The proposed agreement has sections on “leased” and “owned” assets. “The city of Toledo … may lease regional drinking water system assets to the authority for an initial term of 30 years,” it states.
It also says the authority would “own, operate, and maintain assets financed and developed through [Toledo Area Water Authority] sources of funds including, but not limited to, operating revenues, grants and contributions following the operational effectiveness date.”
“Toledo wants to be reimbursed for that owned asset over time — that’s the lease payment,” Mr. Gerken said. “Toledo would get a payment over the 30 year lease.”
The proposed agreement confirmed that the water authority would include a plan to replace all lead service lines and an affordability program for low-income water customers.
Eric Rothstein of Galardi Rothstein Group, who advised the 2016 formation of Detroit's Great Lakes Water Authority, in September said the communities had agreed to those provisions.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson previously said a commitment to remove lead service lines and maintain an affordability program, with the cost universally and equally covered by all communities in the authority, would help “move along” the creation of a water authority.
The authority would move 1.5 percent of projected revenues to an account to cover the cost of helping “indigent local customers,” the proposed agreement said.
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