City sewer rate increases are needed to pay for mandated repairs
I must respond to your Aug. 5 editorial regarding information I presented to Youngstown City Council's Utility Committee on July 31 about the condition of Youngstown's Wastewater Treatment Fund. You stated that the citizens of Youngstown deserve a detailed analysis of the costs associated with the proposal to adjust user charges. In fact, had your reporter who attended this meeting been listening and reporting accurately what was stated, that very information would have been disseminated to your readers.
The concept that "increased employee and benefit costs" are responsible for the need to raise user rates is totally inaccurate.
I stated a number of factors that were considered in determining a rate structure that will enable the city's wastewater plant to operate in full compliance with state and federal regulations over the next five years: particularly the need for increased capital expenditures for maintenance and repair of the wastewater treatment plant and sewer collection systems. Failing to comply will cost Youngstown taxpayers thousands of dollars per year in fines and penalties, along with the threat of lawsuits filed by USEPA.
Another factor I discussed at the July 31 meeting is the payment of "old debt" incurred by the city when the $90 million secondary treatment plant was constructed in the 1980s. Large balloon payments on this debt are due and payable in 2004 and 2005.
Still another factor I discussed at the July 31 meeting was the decreasing customer base and consumption level Youngstown is experiencing. Unfortunately, this decline equates to the loss of nearly $1 million over the next five years. The long-term effect of this trend is that the costs associated with these services must be amortized on a smaller per capita basis. We do not have the luxury of "shutting off" part of a system that was constructed to serve a geographical area that has lost 30 percent of its population over the last 40 years.
Least of these contributing factors is the personnel costs associated with the operation of the Youngstown Wastewater Treatment Plant. These costs are currently 22.7 percent of the total treatment plant's budget, and are projected to increase at approximately 5 percent to 6 percent annually over the next five years, as the costs of the other operational elements of the plant also increase. There are no pay raises contemplated for any employees at this time.
I take particular exception to the inference in your editorial that complete information was not provided by the administration to City Council on this matter. To the contrary, a 20-page document entitled "Sewer Service Charge Study" compiled for the city by the consulting firm of Montgomery-Watson, was referred to at the meeting and was available to City Council and the press.
CARMEN S. CONGLOSE Jr.
X The writer is Youngstown's deputy director of public works..
Columbus to blame for loss of state surplus
It is disturbing to read that after the year 2000 debacle when the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled the then school funding system unconstitutional, and with so many of the schools in disrepair, the state surplus was raided to give an excessive increase to the salaries of politicians. For the ensuing sorry state of affairs throughout the state -- with a vast painful degree of awareness of how all local entities are suffering -- we can thank the malfeasance and abuse engendered in Columbus.
The way the working poor have been snookered, and the way so much of incoming funds have gone to the already wealthy, including farm funds and tax rebates to the rich, should cause the people in Columbus to hang their heads in shame, .
This is just one thinking person's opinion, after subscribing to The Vindicator since returning to the area from California in 1990.
CORNELIUS E. ROBINSON