Officials mull selling water to Aqua Ohio
By David Skolnick
City officials are considering selling up to 2.2 million gallons of water daily to Aqua Ohio as part of a deal that includes a provision that neither would sell water in the other’s distribution areas in Mahoning County.
That kills any plans the ABC (Austintown, Boardman and Canfield) Water and Storm Water District had of purchasing bulk water from Aqua rather than from Youngstown.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Austintown Township Administrator Mike Dockry. Aqua “told us in a letter in 2009 that they’d be willing to sell water to ABC.”
Youngstown City Council will consider approving the contract at its Wednesday meeting. The deal then has to be ratified by the city’s board of control, said Mayor Jay Williams.
The city will sell the water with a 10-percent surcharge. Youngstown water customers outside the city — including those in Austintown as well as portions of Boardman, Canfield, Mineral Ridge, Liberty and Girard — pay a 40-percent surcharge.
“It’s a different type of customer,” Williams said explaining the difference in the surcharges.
The city expects to spend about $350,000 to $500,000 for its portion of the project that would connect its pipes with those of Aqua, said Youngstown Water Commissioner John Casciano. The project should be done by the end of 2012, he said.
The city expects to receive about $100,000 to $125,000 annually from the Aqua deal, he said. The city makes about $23 million a year in water sales.
The city sells about 17 million to 18 million gallons of water a day, Casciano said.
Al Sauline, Aqua’s local manager, played down the deal saying the company needs a back-up water source for its customers. The company sells 1.6 million gallons of water a day.
The company would use Youngstown water on an “as-needed basis” in cases of a waterline break or if its customers increase their demand for water, he said.
“We don’t anticipate needing [Youngstown water] every day,” Sauline said.
He also said it’s routine for water deals to have a “noncompete clause as standard language.”
Sauline also dismissed his company’s interest in possibly providing water to the ABC district.
“To be truthful, we’re looking at serving our base without expanding,” he said.
One of the key reasons for forming the district was concerns from officials in Austintown and Boardman about a potential joint economic development district concept proposed in March 2008 by Youngstown. The city wanted to use its water system to charge a 2-percent income tax to workers in Boardman and Austintown; something township officials vehemently opposed.
Youngstown officials dropped the proposal shortly after the complaints.
“This [Aqua] agreement on its face is to provide water. Period,” Williams said. “New sentence. We continue to believe regional cooperation, whether they be JEDDs or any number of other forms is the only way this area is going to advance. Our philosophy on economic regional cooperation remains unchanged.”
Before the JEDD study was released, city and Aqua officials engaged in a public spat with Aqua offering to buy Youngstown’s water system. The city rejected the offer.
“The past is the past and Youngstown and Aqua are working together toward a mutually-beneficial plan,” Williams said.
Sauline agreed saying, “I’m glad things have changed. We can’t afford an adversarial relationship.”