I wanted to post some details about the proposed water agreement between Lucas County and the City of Toledo for supply of water to areas of western Lucas County which don't currently have water.
The agreement was discussed between county and city staff. Despite the fact that it significantly impacts the townships, they were not at the table to provide input. This is a major problem for me, in that their issues and concerns were not even considered.
My second issue is that the BCC has not held any public hearings on this proposal. Staff will tell you that we don't normally do such hearings, but this agreement is so much more restrictive than our current terms that I felt it would have been a good idea to get input from those impacted by our decision. This is why I've scheduled a public meeting to hear from people on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Springfield Township Hall on Angola.
Our current agreement calls for county recipients of Toledo-supplied water to pay the Toledo rates plus a 50% surcharge. The new agreement calls for a 75% surcharge. Additionally, staff has provided the following summary of terms:
Service Area: All of the township area in western Lucas County not in the July 6, 2005 Lucas County and September 9, 2005 Berkey water agreements, subject to restrictions involving the creation of a JEDD in each township.
(A JEDD is a Joint Economic Development District - from Wikipedia: A Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is an arrangement in Ohio where one or more municipalities and a township agree to work together to develop township land for commercial or industrial purposes. The benefit to the municipality is that they get a portion of the taxes levied in the JEDD without having to annex it. The benefits to the township are that it does not lose prime development land, it can still collect property taxes, and it normally receives water from the municipality, which it may not otherwise have.
To create a JEDD, the municipality and township work together to create a contract. This contract specifies details such as how taxes are levied and shared, annexation prohibitions, and water rates. The communities then vote on the agreement. The issue must pass in each community for the JEDD to be approved.)
Lucas County Obligations: (These obligations also apply to the townships.)
* Adoption of the Fourteen Principles of Smart Growth and accompanying goals promulgated by TMACOG in June, 2003.
* Participation in studies or efforts designed to promote regional cooperation.
* The successful creation of a JEDD in appropriate territory of each township before water is provided to that township.
* Compliance with the Lucas County Land Use Policy Plan update adopted by the Lucas County Planning Commission on September 27, 2000.
* No water in a township that fails to create a satisfactory JEDD. The unapproved modification of a previously created JEDD shall terminate Toledo's obligation to provide water to new customers in that township and shall authorize Toledo to impose the non-contract water rate on that township's existing customers served under this agreement.
* Water available to existing residential structures. No taps larger than one inch permitted unless mutually agreed.
* Water available to new residential structures that comply with the Lucas County Land Use Policy Plan Update adopted by the Lucas County Planning Commission on September 27, 200, only upon prior written approval of Toledo.
* Water available to existing or new commercial or industrial structures only upon prior written approval of Toledo.
* No sanitary sewers can be installed to serve properties receiving Toledo water unless required by a regulatory agency (at which time Toledo can stop new connections to the sewered area).
Water rates: First block Toledo inside rate plus a 75% surcharge.
Term: Agreement shall terminate October 10, 2024.
*"successful creation" of a "satisfactory" JEDD: First, the term 'satisfactory' clearly refers to Toledo's definition of 'satisfactory,' so even if the township trustees are willing to do a JEDD, they may not be willing to adopt Toledo's definition of "satisfactory." Second, 'successful' means that even if township trustees and the city of Toledo reach an agreement, it is subject to a vote of the township - if the voters were to reject such an agreement, no water will be supplied.
* any modification or termination of a JEDD means Toledo will not have to provide water to any new customers and all existing customers will be charged the "non-contract water rate." This is, according to the Toledo Municipal Code 933.02(b) a 100% surcharge.
* Toledo's written approval is needed before water can be supplied to any new residential structures.
* Toledo's written approval is needed before water can be supplied to any EXISTING or new commercial or industrial structure.
* The county will be limited in its ability to provide sewer services to county residents, unless so required by a regulatory agency like the Health Department or the EPA. This means that our existing sewer services cannot be expanded, meaning that any costs of service and maintenance must be born by existing customers and not, over time, spread out among a larger service area.
Some other things within the agreement:
* Standard language exists that if, for any reason, Toledo doesn't have sufficient water, it can limit the water it provides to the county. Under such conditions, the county may seek other sources of water to meet its needs until such time as the water shortage is eliminated.
* The service area is non-exclusive. Even with the agreement, Toledo can still enter into other agreements and provide water directly within the service area.
* Any proposed sewer service shall be submitted to the Plan Commission for their review of whether or not the proposed service is in accordance with the water agreement AND in accordance with the smart growth principles. The Plan Commission must prepare a written report of its findings to Toledo.
* Should any regulatory agency order sanitary sewers to be installed, Toledo may, in its sole discretion, prohibit any or all new service connections to structures that are or could be served by the sanitary sewers.
* Toledo reserves the right to deny water taps to new structures in any area impacted by an AMENDMENT of the adopted Land Use Plan that is enacted without Toledo's written approval. This means that any time a township wants to amend their Land Use Plan, they have to submit the proposed changes to Toledo for their approval - otherwise, Toledo can deny water...
* If there is any unauthorized or ineligible connection, the surcharge increases 5% for each one - and that surcharge is applied to ALL water customers in the service area.
* Toledo has the right to inspect the County's facilities used to provide water in the service area.
* Toledo's Department of Public Utilities must approve all construction or modification plans of the County's facilities to provide water. Toledo can require a feasibility report prior to granting such approval.
* Toledo's Department of Public Utilities must approve all the County's plans and specifications for the construction of any improvement within the service area. Only after such approval has been granted can the County take bids and begin construction.
* Construction standards must be in accordance with Toledo's standards at the time, and Toledo has the authority to inspect all work.
* Not only does Toledo have the right to negotiate agreements directly within the service area, Toledo also has the right to use the County's lines within the service area, subject to a charge for the actual operation and maintenance costs, for the purpose of supplying water to its customers inside or outside the service area, provided such use does not impair the service to Lucas County.
* This new agreement expires on the same date as the County's existing water agreement for everyone else within the jurisdiction. It is expected that any new agreement at that time will seek to impose the terms of this newly proposed agreement upon everyone else.
* A miscellaneous term: The parties will cooperate to attract state development aid, federal funds and employment training dollars to their jurisdictions. In addition, the parties agree to support state legislation that facilities tax-sharing arrangements between political subdivisions and which permits the use of water funds for economic development purposes.
I believe that this agreement is clearly in Toledo's best interest, and I have no objection to them hoping to get such terms. But this agreement is not in the County's best interest, in terms of the restrictions it places upon the County for provision of sewer services as well as the requirment that County lines can be used (only at cost - not any surcharge) should Toledo decide it wants to provide water directly to an entity within our jurisdiction.
I will wait for the public meeting Monday to see if the townships think the agreement is in their best interests, or if loss of autonomy is too high a price to pay for water from Toledo.