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Regional water would erode tension

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    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, left, and Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough shake hands while signing a memorandum of understanding to form the Toledo Area Water Authority Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at the Toledo Chamber of Commerce office.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and leaders of the suburban communities that buy its water sign a memorandum of understanding to form the Toledo Area Water Authority Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at the Toledo Chamber of Commerce office.

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One of the good things that could emerge from a regional water compact involving Toledo and its surrounding suburbs would be the untangling of a spaghetti of water contracts that are different in every community.

Rossford is an example of how this chaos of water agreements results in winners and losers. The city, which is in Wood County but adjacent to Toledo’s East Side, pays some of the highest water rates in the area.

VIDEO: Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz on Toledo Area Water Authority
RELATED: Area leadership backs regional water agreement

How that came about is not entirely clear because the layers of bureaucracy obscure the billing. Although Rossford’s water comes from Toledo, the water first goes through the Northwestern Water & Sewer District, which adds a surcharge.

The average monthly water and sewer bill for a Rossford home based on 800 cubic feet was more than $130 in 2016, compared with $48.04 in Oregon, $51.09 in Bowling Green, $68.60 in Sylvania, $96.67 in Maumee, and $116.88 in Perrysburg. The 2016 average for Toledo was not available, but the comparable charge for Toledo customers in 2018 is $76.35 per month.

To illustrate how surcharges can pile up, Toledo’s charge to Rossford for sewer and water in 2018 is $76.73 per month — almost the same bill that Toledoans pay. NWSD tacks on a surcharge of $74.59, for a total now of $152.32.

Leaders from Toledo, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and NWS have signed a memorandum of understanding to create the Toledo Area Water Authority. Bowling Green and Oregon have their own water sources and treatment plants and they are not expected to join the regional water authority. However, Oregon is expected to sign a contract to share water when and if needed — either by the TAWA or by Oregon itself.

Rossford would be represented in the authority through the NWSD. Waterville would remain separate as well because it plans to pipe its water in from the Bowling Green water treatment plant across the Maumee River.

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If Toledo agrees to sell its water treatment plant to the regional water authority, presumably all existing contracts would be ripped up and replaced with uniform agreements. Currently, the rates that adjacent communities pay for water vary depending on when they signed their agreements with the city of Toledo, and even on who was the mayor of the city of Toledo at the time.

Even if a new TAWA is able to standardize all rates and contracts, that won’t mean every home will pay the same average rate. Rossford, for example, would probably still have to pay higher utility bills than some neighboring communities because it has to pay back NWSD for undertaking $18 million worth of needed repairs to Rossford’s water and sewer system.

Nor has it been determined yet to what extent the area municipalities and water districts will be allowed to tack on surcharges. That is a major question that still needs a solid answer.

But the elimination of different contracts at least has the potential, over a relatively short period of time, to melt away much of the hostility and suspicion that has sprung up over the years between Toledo and its suburban neighbors.

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