The city was subject to a
lawsuit over the latest petition effort.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CAMPBELL — They’ve done it again.
Campbell residents have collected the necessary number of signatures to place a measure on the November ballot blocking city officials from leasing or selling the water plant.
The Mahoning County Board of Elections has certified 376 signatures, or more than 10 percent of the city’s voting population, according to elections officials. Campbell voters last struck down an $11 million deal for the sale of the water plant in 2006.
But the petition needs another nod from the city before it makes its way to the ballot box, said elections official Danielle O’Neill. Finance Director John Leskovyansky Jr. said he is reviewing the petition, as required by Ohio law, but has not determined whether it complies with city statutes. Leskovyansky said he will make a determination before a board of elections deadline Aug. 23.
Earlier this month, the city found itself in court over its handling of the petition. Local resident Flora Hodge sued the city, saying she believes the city was trying to sabotage the petition effort by holding the document rather than passing it along to the board of elections for certification after it was submitted in March. Hodge agreed to drop the suit after the city turned the petition over to the board of elections. Law Director Brian Macala said the city did that Aug. 1.
Council President William J. VanSuch said city council knew local residents opposed the 2006 sale of the plant to private water distributor Aqua Ohio. But he said council wasn’t sure how the public would respond to a more general resolution to advertise for the sale or lease of the plant.
Campbell officials have said that the city cannot afford to maintain the oversized water plant, built during the city’s economic height in the 1970s. VanSuch said he met with state auditors two weeks ago. At the time, he said, the water plant was about $200,000 in the red.
“We have raised water rates 29 percent in the past year-and-a-half,” he said. “We still can’t cut the mustard.”
But petitioner Bill Rich maintains that the plant is an important source of income for the city. Campbell came under the state’s fiscal emergency status in 2004. Rich said the city sells hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to private water distributor Aqua Ohio each month.
“That thing is keeping our city going,” said Rich. “There’s no reason to sell the plant that’s making nothing but money.”