Campbell considers water proposal
The proposed agreement could pay the treatment plant debt.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORNand KANTELE FRANKO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
CAMPBELL -- Questions by city council members about a proposed plan for Aqua Ohio to manage the city's water treatment plant focused on the security of their employees' jobs and the water rate increases residents would see.
Mayor Jack Dill presented the latest of about 10 Aqua Ohio proposals to city council members for discussion at a caucus Tuesday night.
Under the proposed agreement, Aqua Ohio would take over the operation and maintenance of the plant and pay the city $3 million up front and $300,000 annually for 10 years. At the end of that term, Aqua Ohio would own the facility, unless the city decided to renew the contract and pay for the plant's operation and maintenance. No estimate was provided for those costs.
The pact also states that Aqua Ohio would invest $100,000 annually in the plant and its operations for improvements and repairs beyond routine work.
Council spent extra time discussing the increased prices residents would see if Aqua Ohio controlled plant operations. Residents would see no water rate increase in the first year, but could see a maximum 4.9 percent annual increase in each of the following nine years.
Dill said the plant is "barely" in the black now, and it would require increasing water rates 6 percent to 10 percent or more each year to keep it profitable.
Council members also focused on personnel issues during the discussion. The plant superintendent would become an Aqua Ohio employee, and the plant's nine other employees would remain city employees, paid by Aqua, but have the option of becoming Aqua Ohio employees. A former meter reader who was laid off by the city also would be hired as an Aqua employee.
The total $6 million income would help the city out of the more than $4 million debt it incurred from state loans used to upgrade the facilities, Dill said.
If the company were to buy the plant at the end of the agreement, it would be responsible for any remaining debt.
The state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which oversees the city's plans to get out of its state-imposed fiscal emergency, advised the city about a year ago that selling the water treatment plant was one option for getting funds.
Talks with Aqua Ohio have been ongoing for about three months.
The city has been buying untreated water from Aqua Ohio for many decades and treating it at the city plant. Since 1999, Aqua Ohio has bought back treated water not needed for Campbell residents and sold it to other area customers.
If Aqua Ohio finalizes the purchase of the plant in 10 years, it will benefit from the increased production volume and its options for expansion, council President Bob Yankle said.
Dill said all the money from the sale would go into a capital improvements fund, and would not be used for employee salaries.
The deal with Aqua Ohio would enable Campbell to retire its treatment plant debt and have money for matching funds for grants for other repairs and projects that the aging city cannot afford, he said.
The deteriorating condition of the waterlines was demonstrated by waterline breaks during the last two weeks.
Two weeks ago, a main line along Wilson Avenue broke and eventually caused two more breaks, according to George Ginnis, water department superintendent. Ginnis said sometimes when recharging lines after a break, air pockets in the lines find other weak spots and create more breaks.
Last Saturday, a main line burst at Robinson and 12th streets, and Monday morning another line broke at 14th and Reed streets, which resulted in issuance of a "boil advisory."
Issuing a boil advisory follows Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, but means no contaminants were found in the water. If contaminants had been found a "boil alert" would have been issued, Ginnis said.
He said water samples were sent to the Mahoning County Board of Health lab for further testing. He said the boil advisory would remain in effect until the test results are known, possibly as soon as today.