This past week, The Blade has twice commented upon the status of a regional water agreement. There are regions of this country who have such an agreement in place. There are also an equal number, if not greater number of communities where such an agreement is not in place, and the largest city and/or county in that region delivers potable water to the region, with individual cities within that region paying a fair and agreeable price for the water they are being provided. Either system has its boosters. And, both systems can work efficiently.
In this corner of Ohio, Toledo built the city’s water treatment plant in 1941, for an estimated $10 million. Since that time, many improvements have been made to the Collins Park Plant and the pipelines, pump stations, storage tanks, and lagoons, which have added up to an estimated value of $943,000,000. That number was thoroughly and professionally reached and defined by an engineering firm, hired by the Toledo Metro Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) in 2012 to analyze and appraise Toledo’s water system.
Since 2012, the city of Toledo has begun the process of making $500,000,000 in improvements to modernize the Collins Park facility. That has increased the value of Toledo’s water system substantially since the TMACOG study estimated its worth at $943,000,000 in 2012. To date, the professionally appraised value of Toledo’s water system has not been recognized by those who wish to purchase the system from Toledo.
Former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, in a letter dated Nov. 22, 2017, and addressed to the consultant hired to put a regional water system together, raised another very valuable concern: “Discussions on a regional district have not gone far enough in that they fail to explore the better 6119 option — the option of including storm and sanitary utilities in the district as well as potable water. I continue to believe that regionalism would work best if all the utilities are involved...This fractured approach is not a true regional system...and prevents the citizens of the proposed district from benefiting fully from regionalism.”
I believe Ms. Hicks-Hudson was and is right on target. In addition, she was right on target with a further statement: “The proposed make-up of the board is not equitable...Toledo will bear 60 percent of the operating costs but have only 28 percent voice on the Board.”
There is a water impasse at this time for a very simple reason. Unlike Erie, Pa., and other regions that have moved forward regionally, the proposal put on the table in Toledo, by a consultant and about 15 others working quietly out-of-sight, gutted Toledo’s water system financially, put up for sale only that part of the system the suburbs want, our water, and tried to push it through without a vote of Toledoans. And, at the end of all that chicanery, Toledoans would be paying 60 percent of the bill and have 28 percent of the votes on the regional board governing the new water operation.
Former congressman Dennis Kucinich called this one-sided proposal “grand theft water.”
If we are going to further consider a regional water system, let’s get in our cars and drive to Erie, Detroit,and other cities that have, with integrity and justice for all, moved to the regional water concept. Protect Our Water, of which I am just one of many members, will explore all options that strengthen not only our water infrastructure, but other public avenues of regional governance in northwest Ohio.
Carty Finkbeiner is the former mayor of Toledo.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and his suburban counterparts could reach a regional water deal that would keep the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant under Toledo ownership.
The new scenario, proposed by Mr. Kapszukiewicz, contrasts sharply with an existing framework for a regional water authority but could perhaps be more palatable to Toledo voters.
In January, leaders from Toledo, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Monroe County, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District signed an agreement pledging their intent to together form the Toledo Area Water Authority. That agreement outlined plans that included Toledo selling or leasing its water treatment plant to TAWA, something suburban leaders pushed for so that all ratepayers would have an ownership stake in the system.
But the prospect of Toledo losing sole ownership of the water system was met with vocal opposition from residents led by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who argued the city would be giving up too much control of the utility.
Mike Beazley, senior policy adviser to Mr. Kapszukiewicz, said Monday that the administration has been working with some of the suburban mayors to come up with an “alternative path” to regional water without transferring ownership of the plant. The parties also are looking at whether forgoing the plan of creating TAWA as a political subdivision would save on startup costs, he added.
Elected Officials and Community Leaders have expressed concerns with the current provisions of the MOU.
Protect Our Water shares these concerns, and by working together, we can meet the needs of our community.
April 24th, 2018
April 24th, 2018
Gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich took time out of his busy campaign for Ohio governor to talk about the many flaws in the TAWA water proposal.
While it may not be politically correct to "butt heads" with The Blade, Mr. Kucinich feels that this issue is far too important to Toledoans not to address.
That's what Ohio state gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich called the proposal put forth by the newly formed Toledo Area Water Authority.
Toledo Blade - March, 2018
Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finbeiner of Protect Our Water let everyone know that while Toledo's water system was recently valued at 1.5 billion dollars, our city leaders were trying to sell it for a fraction of its worth.
Protect Our Water Press Conference - March, 2018
When city leaders tried to make a deal to sell Toledo's water system without putting the issue on the ballot, Protect Our Water member David Neunendorf was instrumental in pointing out the laws prohibiting such a sale.
Because of Dave, our other dedicated members, as well as our friends over at Water Watch Dog.org, we're proud to say that you'll have a voice on this very crucial issue at the voting booth this November!
Protect Our Water has proposed an alternative regional water deal that addresses the concerns of not only Toledoans, but that of our neighboring communities. It allows for the creation of a regional water authority that we feel is more representative of Toledo, as well as a fairer rate structure for all end users.
If adopted, it will also allow the City of Toledo to retain ownership of its water system.
We'll certainly keep you informed on the progress of these negotiations.
Protect Our Water
Council District 1
Gesu Sullivan Center
2049 Parkside Blvd.
Council District 4
1415 Jefferson Ave.
Council District 2
Bowsher High School
2200 Arlington Ave.
As a former chief chemist, utilities director, and chief operating officer for the City of Toledo, I felt compelled to attempt to clarify some issues regarding the proposed creation of a Toledo area water authority (TAWA).
In the 1940s, Toledo made a wise decision to replace drawing water from the Maumee River by building a water intake over two miles out into Lake Erie and a 120 million gallons/day (MGD) treatment plant nine miles inland in East Toledo. With excess capacity, Toledo began to supply surrounding communities with water without demanding annexation. Columbus and several other cities have expanded their city size by requiring annexation in order to be supplied with water.
Since the 1940s, different water contracts between Toledo and its suburbs have been negotiated. Several existing contracts will expire within a decade, allowing new agreements to be established. Both Maumee and Perrysburg have purchased and continue to purchase water from Toledo at lower rates than Toledo residents pay. Toledo uses 60 percent of water treated at its plant, while Maumee and Perrysburg together use only 10 percent. The City of Sylvania only uses three percent.
Every community that purchases water from Toledo has the ability to add on its own surcharge that it can on to its residents to maintain their system. It would be beneficial for all communities to see how Toledo rates compared to all other regional water supplies. It would also be beneficial to see how much their own community tacks on to the Toledo rate. Each community should also see an annual report detailing exactly how that additional tack-on revenue is spent.
The 2014 Toledo water crisis jump started the TAWA effort, as it became obvious that confusion over standards and analytical procedures caused the problem.. But it has obviously accomplished little just to repeat the statement — for six decades — that 66 percent of the problem comes from upstream runoff. Toledo is in the process of spending a half billion dollars to both expand its treatment plant and also to add additional treatment processes to help prevent future problems from occurring.
While it is always appropriate and beneficial to consider all aspects of regional cooperation, it must be recognized that Toledo already developed a regional water system many decades ago. Perhaps while it might be time to entertain discussions regarding future water contracts and rates, the current TAWA memorandum of understanding should be totally unacceptable to Toledo for reasons too numerous to list here, which every Toledo resident must be made aware of.
Some non-starters include: Toledo must lease its own plant; major Toledo businesses/institutions water rates along with all residents double; Toledo loses governance of its own plant; and Toledo must perform cost of service reports and relinquish all assets, not required of the other members. Finally, Toledo is expected to pay 60 percent of the two-year transition costs while Toledo gets less than 30 percent of the proposed controlling board vote.
Toledo has a regional water cooperative arrangement with the City of Oregon that serves both communities well. The regional water rate plan suggested by TMACOG should serve as a template for future discussions. Regional cooperation, as demonstrated by TMACOG in our area transportation network, has proven beneficial to all in our region.
With Toledo’s leadership, hopefully an acceptable water rate solution will be found to present to Toledo voters, one that requires the outside communities to pay Toledo the half billion dollars Toledo is paying for treatment plant improvements in exchange for rate equalization. And just as important, if Toledo is being expected to pay for 60 percent of the transition cost, it also must be expected that Toledo deserves a 60 percent voting position on any future board.
THOMAS L. KOVACIK
Pages Of Opinion - Published on March 27, 2018
The ongoing debate about how to create a new regional water system for Toledo and its suburbs is a mix of the old and the new. Old political resentments and mistrust cast across a new problem.
After decades of singularly controlling the source of drinking water for its neighboring suburban communities, Toledo is facing a new reality. To stand any chance of holding off skyrocketing water rates and crumbling infrastructure for its own shrinking population, it must share power with those neighboring communities.
The suburbs must sell their residents on buying into a whole new water system that should involve subsidizing low-income Toledo ratepayers and paying for new infrastructure. They also must join the campaign to convince Toledo voters to approve the deal, which could be no small feat.
So, from press conferences, to televised debates, to public-information sessions, the leaders of each tribe have gone toe-to-toe fighting to defend the status quo for their side as the agreement to create a regional system gets hammered out.
This is all new territory for northwest Ohio. But, really, Toledo should not reinvent the wheel here.
Metropolitan areas across the country have been creating regional water systems for years. The Chicago-based consultant hired by the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce to facilitate this deal plans such projects for a living.
Detroit created a regional system, the Great Lakes Water Authority, in 2014 to combine Detroit and its suburbs in a new regional system.
Cincinnati voters rejected a ballot measure in 2009 that would have sold that city’s water works to a newly created regional system using the type of regional entity, known as a 6119, advocates have proposed in Toledo.
In Iowa, city officials in Des Moines and surrounding communities are hammering out a memorandum of understanding for a new regional water system much like the proposal in Toledo.
Many of the issues translate from region to region. How will the system be governed? How will it affect rates? Will jobs be protected? Will communities lose political power in the new arrangement?
So much of Toledo’s debate about these issues has devolved into the same old political arguments featuring the same cast of political players. It has become impossible to separate the personalities from the genuine points of contention.
That makes it even more vital for the suburban and city leaders working to create a regional water system that will suit all the Toledo-area communities now and generations from now — when the players have changed — to find a way to step back and make decisions with a bit of perspective.
It is time for those leaders to take the show on the road and investigate how other metro areas are dealing with the issues of shared power, shared responsibility, and shared water. Surely these communities have wrestled with the same challenges. Do they have any innovation solutions Toledo can replicate? Do they offer any lessons on what pitfalls to avoid?
The mayor should form a study group, of critics as well as advocates of the MOU, and send them to other cities to learn. A similar approach was used when Toledo adopted the strong mayor form of government.
The region needs a well planned regional water system to ensure safe, clean drinking water and regional economic development. We can do this if we step out of the provincialism of Toledo.
Whether it's contacting folks through social media or just putting a up yard signs, we need your help!