The cost of water rates in northern Wood County will be discussed at a public forum June 4 at the Rossford Public Library.
The forum, which will start at 7 p.m., is being hosted by Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown and State Representative Randy Gardner.
They described the forum as “fact-finding” in nature, saying they want to hear from Rossford and area residents regarding water contract issues with the City of Toledo as well as water rate hikes that have hit other communities in that part of the county.
“In this difficult economy, it is unreasonable to expect citizens to accept double digit increases in water rates,” Representative Gardner said. “The complaints are loud and understandable. Even though their state representative and county commissioners don’t vote on water rates, maybe we can find a way to help.”
Rossford’s water purchase contract with Toledo is also a source of agitation for users, he said, because of Toledo’s linking it with surcharges and income tax revenues generated by development in the Wood County community.
Rossford Mayor William Verbosky, Jr. has expressed frustration with Toledo officials over how negotiations on a new contract have proceeded.
In a letter to the editor of the Toledo FreePress and Rossford Record he contends Toledo imposed on Rossford a non-contract rate of the Toledo residential rate plus 125 percent – an increase of 140 percent over the expired 2008 contract.
He said Toledo imposed the higher rate because the parties couldn’t come to an agreement on revenue sharing, noting Toledo was insisting on raising its already 27 percent share of Rossford income tax collected in a 1992 Joint Economic Development Zone agreement to 40 percent and a phased in water rate increase of 130 percent over four years.
Rossford, he says, has invested millions of dollars on its own infrastructure, including water and sewer lines to the Crossroads area, with Toledo supplying only water.
Robert Reinbolt, Chief of Staff for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, countered in a letter that Toledo has offered to keep the Rossford JEDZ rates the same for existing businesses and the increase would only be for new businesses.
Without Toledo water, he contends, Rossford would not have been able to annex the JEDZ area from Perrysburg Township.
Commissioners from Wood and Ottawa counties and the board of trustees of the Northwestern Water and Sewer District recently announced they’ll conduct a study to determine if it’s viable to link their water distribution systems.
The study, with an estimated cost of about $18,750, will examine where the systems could be best linked, which would give the district another source for purchasing water for its 20,000 or so customers.
Currently, the district, based in Wood County, purchases water from the cities of Toledo and Oregon.
Jerry Greiner, district director, said one option that has been discussed is for Ottawa County to bring a line to the Wood/Ottawa county border along Fostoria Road where the district already has lines in place.
“We have to do all we can to find better options for our residents and businesses,” said Commissioner Brown. “Water is so important to our families and businesses as we fight to retain jobs in this challenging economy.”