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Sunday, June 13, 2010

STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MIFFED AT AQUA OVER RATE INCREASES. DO THEY HAVE THE MOXIE TO EXPLORE OTHER OPTIONS?


Was talk about Stark County forming its own water facility political posturing?  Or, was it legit, in terms of being a serious consideration?  

At Wednesday's meeting (June 9th), the commissioners appeared to be interested in finding an alternative to Aqua water.

Why?

Because of the huge increase (percentage wise) that Aqua is seeking for water sold in bulk to the Stark County Metropolitan Sewer (Water) District.


With the county experiencing a financial crisis which could result in a 30% or higher cut in departmental budgets come 2012, the county cannot afford to subsidize retail water rates from its general fund.

Back on August 28, 1997, the then Commissioners Don Watkins, John Dougherty and Gayle Jackson (now working for the Ohio Lottery Commissioner on an appointment from Governor Strickland) obligated Stark County to a 20 year commitment to buy water at rates negotiated by the city of Massillon.



There is a way out of the contract.  But, according to contract language, it could take about three years.  A two year notice and a year more for the piping connection to be maintained.


However, the SCPR believes that the talk about alternatives by the current set of commissioners is a lot of political huffing and puffing.

Commissioner Bosley is running for the Ohio House (50th) which includes Lake Township from which 2,300 households are served by the Stark County Metropolitan Sewer (Water) District (SCMSD).  And, of course, Commissioner Meeks has an uphill battle against former Canton mayor Janet Creighton to retain his commissioner seat.

The SCMSD raised rates for Lake its users in 2002 and in July, 2008 (12 1/2%).  Will this bulk rate increase be passed on to the users.  Stay tuned.  That possibility will be looked at by SCMSD officials.

Other constituencies which could potentially be affected by bulk water rate increases include Jackson and Perry Townships as well as Massillon and Hills and Dales.

The alternatives are to get water from North Canton, from Canton or to develop its own well fields and get into the water business itself. 

Interim Sanitary Engineer James R. Jones, P.E. told commissioners that getting into the business would be a big ticket item cost wise.

Stark County will end up paying $1.82 per thousand gallons as of January 1, 2012 whereas it is currently paying $1.58.  Apparently, this is a "deal."  As pointed out by the SCPR in discussions about the Aqua/North Canton arrangement whereby North Canton sells water to Aqua as a backup is by terms of a new contract set at $3.60 per thousand gallons.

This very point was made by James Purtz, who is the District Manager for Aqua at its Massillon facility, commissioners on Wednesday.

The Report's take on this exchange that it is mostly political theater designed to make Commissioners Bosley and Meeks as "fighters for the people."  It would be a shock if commissioners were to seriously explore the alternatives.  Perhaps, the commissioners will surprise us all?

Here is a video of the exchange between commissioners and Manager Prutz:

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