Monday, June 7, 2010


At last Wednesday's meeting, Stark County commissioners were astonished to learn that the city of Massillon negotiates (at least in a de facto if not de jure setting) the water rate for Stark County's unincorporated area insofar as to what price Aqua of Ohio/America, Incorporated (Aqua) charges for its water to the likes of the Stark County Metropolitan Sewer District which services about 2,300 Stark Countians.

A month or two ago Aqua notified commissioners that it would be seeking a 20% up front increase from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

This news caused a storm of protest by water users of Aqua supplied water.  Apparently, the protests were effective as Aqua is now only asking for 14.75% spread over three years.  Another shift?  Aqua is now willing to negotiate (but only with Massillon).  Hmm?

From what the SCPR has been able to learn, the process by which Massillon negotiates the lead agreement goes back perhaps as far as 1961.  The Report talked with Mayor Cicchinelli this past week and all he could tell yours truly was that this has been the arrangement that he is familiar with going back to the beginning of his days in Massillon government.

Relevant to this discussion is a item on the Mayor's campaign finance report for 2009 that shows a $180,.00 campaign contribution by Aqua America, Inc's H2O PAC.

So what?

The Report's take is as follows:

The principals would, if asked,  - one would think - assert that the contribution had nothing whatsoever to do with the upcoming negotiations between Massillon and Aqua as well as the results as shown in the Jones letter to the county commissioners date June 2nd.

More specifically, Cicchinelli, for his part - the SCPR believes -  would say that Aqua was and is merely interested in good government and that he has been a good mayor and deserving of support.  Undoubtedly, Aqua would would vouch for such an explanation.

The SCPR has no basis on which to question the conjectured  positions on the contribution as they were posited in the preceding paragraphs.

However, whether it's Mayor Healy in Canton or Mayor Cicchinelli in Massillon or any other elected official, the SCPR does not think it is a wise practice for elected officials to accept campaign contributions from company PACs (Political Action Committees) for companies or, for that matter, from individuals with which/whom the political entity involved does business.

In this day and age there is heightened skepticism and cynicism about government, in general.  Only about 20% of Americans - national polls show - trust government at any level;.

Accordingly, elected officials - across the board - should reevaluate whom they will and will not take campaign contributions from.  Otherwise, they fuel public skepticism and cynicism and have only themselves to blame when they experience citizen criticism.  Moreover, declining such contributions will, over time, help restore public confidence in government to higher levels.

In his memo, Engineer Jones does point out that "[t]he last increase for Aqua was in 2005."  He goes on to elaborate that Aqua got no increase in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Jones' assertion that "[i]n light of no increases for two and one-half years, the requested [Aqua] increases seem reasonable" did not mollify commissioners.  They asked Jones to have an Aqua representative appear at Wednesday's (June 9, 2010) meeting.  The meeting should be interesting.

Here is a video showing the amazement, astonishment and disgust of commissioners demonstrated in their June 2, 2010 meeting.

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