Boardman, Austintown join forces for water war

By Ed Runyan

“We are not going to sit back and wait for Youngstown to strike.”

Lisa Oles

Austintown trustee

Austintown trustees expect Youngstown to deny water to businesses if there’s no annexation.

BOARDMAN — A strategy of waiting to see what Youngstown does next in its attempt to impose an income tax on workers in Austintown and part of Boardman may take a back seat to a more aggressive position, Austintown Trustee Lisa Oles says.

Trustees from both townships plan to meet at 4 p.m. Monday at the Boardman Government Center, 8299 Market St., to discuss their options with “several lawyers from Columbus” and possibly with a representative from Aqua Ohio, Oles said.

The agenda calls for talks with lawyers to be conducted in closed session, under provisions of the Ohio Open Meetings Act that allow private discussions of “pending or imminent court action.”

Oles said Austintown trustees don’t plan to take any action at the meeting, but they will take action before Youngstown has a chance to “launch their attack on us.”

“As a result of this meeting, there will be action one way or another,” Oles said. “We are not going to sit back and wait for Youngstown to strike,” Oles said.

Austintown trustees, in a public meeting held May 13 in Austintown Middle School, said they are bracing for a legal battle with Youngstown as soon as this summer.

Trustees said they will sue the city if it required any business along the Austintown-Youngstown border to annex to keep its Youngstown water.

Austintown trustees said such annexation would become a test case that could go to the Ohio Supreme Court to determine how much control the city has over areas of Austintown and Boardman that receive their water from the city.

Austintown trustees expect the city to threaten to shut off water to such a business if it refuses to annex.

The annexation issue arose this year after news that the city was proposing a Joint Economic Development District with the two townships that would result in a 2 percent income tax being charged to workers whose companies in Austintown and Boardman use the city’s water. An additional 0.25 percent income tax could be imposed by the township, under the proposal.

In exchange, the city would reduce its income tax from 2.75 percent to 2.25 percent, reduce its surcharge on Austintown and Boardman water customers from 40 percent to 20 percent and provide additional economic development for the two townships.

Youngstown, for its part, has not threatened to annex the townships if they don’t embrace the JEDD plan.

Oles said that discussions between Boardman and Austintown so far suggest that the townships will be working in concert on whatever actions the townships take next.

She added that remarks by Canfield Trustee Bill Reese at the public meeting suggest that Canfield Township should also be included in any strategy sessions.

The June 2 meeting will focus on options available to Boardman and Austintown, including incorporation of the townships into a city to prevent Youngstown from annexing any part of the townships, and forming the townships’ own water district, Oles said.

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