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Green considering water rate increase

3/28/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

GREEN — AquaOhio is attempting to increase water rates in Green but needs Green City Council to approve a new agreement first.

A public hearing concerning a proposed contract with AquaOhio was held at the start of the March 26 Green City Council meeting and lasted about an hour.

Councilman Joel Reed (at large) explained AquaOhio has proposed a four-year contract calling for a 3.5 percent rate increase each year of the agreement.

The last contract between Green and AquaOhio allowed for a 5 percent increase the first year of the agreement and a 4.75 percent increase the second and third years, he said.

According to Reed, the city has the option of entering into a contract with AquaOhio or asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to determine the rate the city should pay.

AquaOhio President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Kolodziej Jr. was present to defend the requested rate increase.

He explained the rate hike is being driven by increased costs associated with running the business, including the price of chemicals for water treatment, power costs to run the pumps, labor agreements and capital improvements to the system.

In addition, Kolodziej said AquaOhio plans to make major investments in 2014 to the sludge lagoon, which is a repository for the lime used to soften the water. He said lagoon improvements would cost up to $4 million.

He added AquaOhio also would make improvements to existing pipes, water mains and hydrants in Green during the next four years.

According to Kolodziej, AquaOhio would earmark $3.65 million for upgrades, specifically for expansions, to the system in the city during the period of the contract.

He added AquaOhio also presented the city of Massillon with identical rate increases over the next four years.

Councilman John Summerville (Ward 4) said he has reservations and would like to compare the water rates in nearby municipalities.

Other members of Council agreed they, too, were concerned with the proposed rate increases and the impact they would have on city residents, especially those on fixed incomes.

“We have to answer to the residents how we negotiate a contract,” said Councilman Ken Knodel (Ward 3).

Under the present system, AquaOhio owns the waterlines in the city, so the consumer has no say in who provides them water, he added.

Councilman Gerard Neugebauer (at large) said he hopes the city and AquaOhio could work out an agreement that meets the needs of the residents.

If the city and AquaOhio can’t negotiate something “acceptable,” then the issue would be directed to PUCO, Reed said.

However, there is a cost associated with asking PUCO to make the determination, and that would be put on the city, he added.

Reed said PUCO does allow a water company to make an 8 percent net profit each year.

According to Kolodziej, AquaOhio reached a three-year agreement with Poland and Struthers in 2012. The increases were 5.1 percent the first year, 4.95 percent the second year and 4.95 percent the third year, he said.

Increases are needed to keep the system running property, Kolodziej said.

“Some can pay the increases, and it is no big deal, but for some, it is a big deal, especially for large corporations who use a lot of water,” Summerville said.

Council will further consider the proposed contract and prepare to vote on it at the next regular meeting, Reed said.

Also during the regular meeting, Council:

  • approved granting consent to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to mow along Interstate 77, within the limits of the city of Green, for fiscal year 2013;
  • approved granting consent to ODOT to spot pave within the city limits for fiscal year 2014;
  • approved the establishment of a street lighting district for Stoney Creek Estates, Phase III, at no cost to the city;
  • approved the final plat of Diamond Shores Allotment No. 2;
  • heard the second reading of a resolution authorizing the city to accept a transfer of lot 33 in the Mystic Pointe subdivision and further authorizing the city to transfer lot 33 to Scott and Sharon Durbin in exchange for lot 35; and
  • heard the second reading of an ordinance changing the zoning classification of property containing approximately 2.48 acres of land at 1860 and 1870 Graybill Road from R-1 (Single-Family Residential) to B-1 (General Business). A public hearing on the legislation is scheduled for April 23 at 7:05 p.m. at the Central Administration Building (CAB), located at 1755 Town Park Blvd.

During committee meetings, held prior to the regular meeting, Council reviewed the happenings of the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) meeting March 20.

Neugebauer said the PZC approved a preliminary subdivision plan for a seven-lot subdivision on the north side on Heckman Road, west of Park Ridge Drive. The subdivision will be served with central sewer but have individual private water wells, he said. According to Neugebauer, the gas well tank battery on the site would be moved closer to the well and screened with evergreens to block the view from the new building sites. He said the subdivision also would introduce a storm water feature called Groundwater Recharge Basins, which would control storm water run-off from the individual lots.

The PZC also approved a final plat for Kings Ridge Phase 4, consisting of 17 lots on 8.68 acres, Neugebauer said. This phase is along the eastern section of the development, he said. All lots meet minimum lot size requirements and will be served with central water and sewer, he added.

Council additionally heard an update on the city’s capital improvement projects and service maintenance projects for the year.

The next regular Green City Council meeting is scheduled to take place April 9 at 5 p.m. with committee meetings and at 7 p.m. for the regular meeting in Council Chambers at the CAB.

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