Campbell decides to sell water system
By William K. Alcorn
City officials are taking another run at selling the city’s dilapidated water treatment and distribution system and getting out from under an estimated $14.2 million worth of upgrades required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
At its meeting Wednesday, city council unanimously approved a resolution to advertise for bids for the sale of the system, which has 3,000 customers who were facing bills that could increase from $54.50 per month to more than $85.
Mayor Nicholas Phillips said the process has been transparent and will continue to be so through the bidding and sale process.
Phillips said the city is hiring legal experts to draw up the bid document and that all pertinent city officials, including members of council and himself, will review the document. Also, it will be available for residents to see before a final decision is made.
Two entities, Aqua Ohio and the city of Youngstown, are potential bidders.
Aqua Ohio made an unsolicited $7 million offer for the water system last year, and the Youngstown water commissioner has asked that his city be given fair consideration as a potential purchaser.
Phillips said deciding to sell the water system has been a “long, hard-fought decision.”
But, the mayor said, having to pay the amount of money needed for upgrades would be catastrophic for the city.
Additionally, the money from the sale of the water system would provide money for other needed projects in the city, Phillips said.
“The plant is old. I’d love to keep it, but we can’t. I’m glad it’s over,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Bryan Tedesco.
“This was not an easy decision. The only way we could keep the water system is to raise rates. We weighed all the information, and this is the only answer,” said 4th Ward Councilwoman Juanita Rich.
And President of Council George Levendis noted, “We had to subsidize the water department with general-fund revenue, which hurt other city departments.”
“What seemed like a huge financial burden may end up being a financial blessing. Now it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Phillips.
If there is any serious opposition to selling the plant, it did not appear at Wednesday’s meeting.
The last time council went down this road was in 2005 when the city negotiated a sale contract with Aqua. But after council approved the deal, residents opposed to the sale organized a referendum, forcing the issue onto the ballot, where it was voted down, said Atty. Brian Macala, Campbell law director.