Friday, Sep 21, 2018
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Suburbs look for backup water plans as Toledo waits to vote


Toledo’s suburban leaders don’t want a push toward a regional water authority to lose its momentum, so they’re working to draft their own plan for such a system — possibly one without the city —  as they wait to see if Toledo will join.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said entities involved in Toledo Area Water Authority discussions are poised to draft a new memorandum of understanding without Toledo. He said the decision arose from a meeting Monday, where leaders from Toledo and the eight communities that buy its water discussed how to proceed while the city awaits a November citizen vote on whether to join a regional water authority.

He expects a new memorandum will be drafted in the next two weeks.

“We met about how to go forward since the city is kind of in a timeout period right now,” Mr. Gerken said. “The question is what do the other communities do? Can we continue to work toward formation of [TAWA] and get that work done? Everyone said ‘yes.’”

Toledo announced last week it will send the issue of whether Toledo and its Collins Park Water Treatment Plant should join TAWA to the voters, causing a delay in the finalization of an agreement with its suburban partners. In the meantime, the other entities will continue to meet with the hope Toledo can join at a later time.

Officials from Toledo, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District signed an initial memorandum of understanding in late January. Mr. Gerken said the biggest difference in the forthcoming MOU is a new governance structure without Toledo. The water source in an agreement without Toledo has yet to be determined.

“That will be part of the discussion over the next few weeks,” Mr. Gerken said. “This is not to exclude Toledo, but to keep the process moving.”

Mike Beazley, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s senior policy advisor and Oregon city administrator, said he expected the other communities to pursue forming TAWA while Toledo waits for the November vote.

“Their decision to move forward, I think, is their way to make it clear that they believe they have to act and they want to keep momentum going,” he said. “I think it’s in some ways their way of telling Toledo, ‘If you’re not going to be part of this, we’ll do it without you.’”

But Mr. Beazley said the Kapszukiewicz administration doesn’t believe the vote is a setback to the process, and he is confident the city will be able to join TAWA without issue, should the voters approve the ballot issue.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, who has been leading the regional water effort, reiterated that he believes a regional water system would work best with Toledo’s involvement. He said the new MOU will contain language to allow Toledo to join at a later date.

Once the new agreement is signed, each participating legislative body must then approve the move to petition Lucas County Common Pleas Court to officially form the new authority.

“It was not felt that it would work to present to the judge an MOU that included Toledo when it wasn’t certain they would participate,” Mr. Stough said. “It’s not meant to be exclusionary of Toledo any way, just a way to make progress in the interim.”

Toledo city officials are hosting a community meeting to discuss TAWA with voters from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave.

Contact Jay Skebba at, 419-376-9414, or on Twitter @JaySkebbaBlade.

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