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LIBERTY TOWNSHIP County would fight water service from Consumers



Published: Wed, July 17, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The company is circumventing commissioners, a Trumbull County official says.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LIBERTY -- Consumers Ohio Water Co. has approached Liberty Township with a proposal to provide water service.

Patrick J. Ungaro, township administrator, met Tuesday with company representatives to hear a proposal, which includes installing waterlines free.

Ungaro said he realizes an attempt by Consumers to run lines in the township would probably end up in court.

Thomas Holloway, Trumbull County sanitary engineer, whose office is responsible for water service in the unincorporated areas of the county, said he too has no doubt such an effort would prompt legal action.

Holloway said that because negotiations have broken off with Consumers to buy the 37-mile county system, the company is going directly to the township.

Company's response

"We're the water company. I'm in the water business," said Walter J. "Buzz" Pishkur, Consumers Ohio president.

Pishkur said he doesn't need the county's cooperation but is willing to work with the commissioners and local communities to get water service.

"Buzz is playing a different game out there," Holloway said. "He's trying to drum up political support for his position.

"We'll challenge him on it."

Holloway said county commissioners control water distribution outside cities and villages.

Pishkur countered that his company has waterlines in Brookfield, an unincorporated area.

Customers in portions of Liberty, Vienna, Howland and Hubbard townships receive Consumers Ohio water through the county-owned system.

Talks with Niles

The county is negotiating with Niles to provide bulk water to the county system. Niles and Youngstown get water from the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District to serve the cities and to resell to suburban customers.

Ungaro termed the county water system a "monopoly," saying it isn't in the best interest of the people.

Ungaro said Consumers Ohio is proposing to lay waterlines where there are none and not charge customers a fee to tap in.

In addition, Ungaro said, the company is willing to install lines in areas where there aren't customers, but where there is potential for residential and commercial development.

Ungaro also said Consumers Ohio would be paying property taxes where it has easements for lines, while the county doesn't pay such a tax.

The township needs water and sewer service to attract development, he said.

In a letter April 4 to commissioners, Holloway expresses concerns that the company rates have increased more rapidly than Niles' rates because of the need for profits.

"A long-term supply contract with a public entity will eliminate the "mystery" in public utility rate setting," Holloway wrote.

Ungaro said the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio can keep private rates in check.

"I just can't raise rates," Pishkur noted.

yovich@vindy.com




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