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Mayor Kapszukiewicz pitches alternate regional water plan

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    Keith Burris, left, editor, vice president and editorial director for Block Newspapers greets Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz at The Blade on May 24, 2018.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz speaks to the editorial board about his and his staff's new regional water plan at The Blade on May 24, 2018.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • CTY-WATER25p-10

    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz speaks to the editorial board about his and his staff's new regional water plan at The Blade on May 24, 2018.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • CTY-WATER25p-8

    Michael Beazley, far back center, senior policy adviser, speaks to the editorial board about the new regional water plan at The Blade on May 24, 2018.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • CTY-WATER25p-9

    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz speaks to the editorial board about his and his staff's new regional water plan at The Blade on May 24, 2018.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is set to pitch his solution to achieving regional water, one that forms a new commission with Toledo’s suburbs so that each participating community has a say in water rates and future investments in the utility.

RELATED: Thousands of Toledo residents pay for water they don't use

He is optimistic it’s a plan that makes sense for Toledoans, suburban water customers, and area businesses. But at least two suburban mayors aren’t sold on the proposal that allows Toledo to keep its Collins Park Water Treatment Plant and gives city council the ability to veto recommended water rates.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s plan calls for Toledo and the municipalities that buy its water to form a regional water commission. Each participating community would appoint one representative from its utilities department — not a politician, he was quick to point out — and Toledo would appoint two.

The group would make rate recommendations by a vote of at least three-fourths of the members, but Toledo City Council would have the final say. Should three-fourths of city council vote against the recommended rate, the commission would be sent back to the drawing board.

VIDEO: Mayor pitches alternate regional water plan

The mayor said he envisions setting uniform contracts with each customer community that would last 30 to 50 years with rates based on the actual cost of usage. Toledo and Lucas County customers would pay a retail rate, and the suburban customers would be charged a uniform wholesale rate.

“Everyone’s rates will go up. We know that, we’ve always known that. But they will not spike the way we feared they would under a bifurcated system,” he said.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz plans to present his new proposal Friday to leaders from Lucas County, Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District.

“What we have put together, we believe, is a technically successful, well-written plan that makes sense for the entire region,” he said.

Maumee Mayor Richard Carr said he was disappointed to see Toledo’s plan on Thursday. He contends it disproportionately benefits Toledoans and leaves suburban ratepayers without much of a say in how the system operates.

He takes most issue with a provision that says Toledo would retain its authority to set water rates regardless of what the commission decides.

“Though it would still take recommendations from the Commission, the City would need a mechanism to ensure it could satisfy its debt obligations and provide for the efficient operation of its water utility,” the proposal states. “The city of Toledo could not be in a position where it was unable to meet its obligations due to a failure of the Regional Water Commission to recommend sufficient rates.”

Since Toledo would continue to own the plant under Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s plan, it would also continue to own the system’s debt. But allowing Toledo’s council to have veto power isn’t a scenario Mr. Carr is interested in.

“We wanted it to be an equal partnership of all the participating communities,” Mr. Carr said. “It’s just not going to work.”

He said he would prefer to move forward with the Toledo Area Water Authority strategy that area leaders had agreed on in January. That plan called for each community to have an ownership stake in the water treatment plant and a voice in setting water rates.

BLADE BRIEFING: Sarah Elms on regional water plan

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said he also would prefer the parties move forward with TAWA but is willing to consider Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s alternate framework.

“We will definitely give it consideration [Friday] as a group and listen to his presentation,” Mr. Stough said.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s plan does keep some elements of the TAWA framework, including a lead line replacement program, a low-income assistance program, and a willingness to explore redundant water sources.

Toledo City Council will also have to weigh in on Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s proposal, as will the voters. Toledoans likely will vote in November on a ballot issue necessary to change the city’s charter to allow the new regional water commission to set water rates.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he recognizes not everyone will love the plan, but he believes it is the right move for Toledo and its suburbs. He said he’d like to have the new system rolling early next year.

“I think it accomplishes what has eluded this region for two generations, and that is genuine regional cooperation and transparency as it pertains to the delivery of water,” he said. “I do hope that we can turn that corner with this proposal. We’ll see how the conversation goes tomorrow.”

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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