TRUMBULL COUNTY Effort to sell water systems to private company runs dry

A county official says Niles is offering cheaper water than Consumers of Ohio Water Co.
WARREN -- Trumbull County and Consumers of Ohio Water Company have broken off negotiations on a deal that could have included selling part of the county water system to the private company.
"They just wouldn't meet our demands," said Thomas Holloway, Trumbull County sanitary engineer.
For years, the private water company has had its eyes on the Brookfield-Hubbard water system, and also the Four Townships system, which includes portions of Howland, Vienna, Hubbard and Liberty.
Customers in those areas already drink Consumers of Ohio water, but it is delivered on county-owned lines.
"By operating the system, we believe we could lower the cost to customers, create additional tax base and get water to people who so desperately want it in a cost-effective way," said Walter Pishkur, president of Consumers Ohio Water Company.
County officials question whether Consumers of Ohio would really offer a better price if it owned the water system.
"We don't know what will happen down the road," said Joseph J. Angelo, a county commissioner. "If we just give them the water system, they can turn around and jack up the price in five years or 10 years."
Holloway said the county has not been interested in selling the Four Townships system, which is considered prime for development. The area includes Belmont Avenue and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Sale of the Brookfield-Hubbard system was on the table, he said, but Consumers of Ohio did not offer what county officials thought the system was worth. Holloway estimated the value of the 37 miles of water lines and equipment at $2.1 million.
Consumers offered $1.3 million, and did not want to include a provision that would let the county buy the system back if things didn't work out, he said.
As part of a 2001 proposal, Consumers of Ohio offered to guarantee a minimum 7.5 percent monthly savings for most Brookfield-Hubbard customers, and a minimum of 24 percent savings for most customers in the Four Townships water district.
Pishkur said an additional advantage to the public would be that the land and equipment for the water system would become taxable if it were owned by Consumers, while no taxes are collected on it while it is owned by the government. The additional tax revenue could have amounted to $45,000 a year, he said.
As part of the deal, Consumers offered to reduce its price for bulk water by $3.05 to $1.85 per 1,000 gallons of water. Pishkur said the rate was better than what any municipal water source could offer; Holloway said the county is currently in negotiations for bulk water with Niles, which is offering to charge less.
Talks with Consumers stalled when the company declined to offer the same rate for bulk water to the county as it has been giving the city of Hubbard, Holloway said.

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