Youngstown panel OKs $350K payment for water case fees
By David Skolnick
The board of control approved a $350,000 payment from the water fund for the legal fees for the attorneys who filed a class-action lawsuit against the city.
The lawsuit questioned the legality of Youngstown’s use of water and wastewater funds for economic development. The legal action was settled in March.
The payment of legal fees was part of the settlement. The board authorized the payment Thursday.
Attys. Robert B. Casarona of Cleveland and Bryan M. Ridder of Youngstown represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Also, the board approved a $21,775 payment for mediation services that helped to settle the suit for $1.45 million worth of credits to the city’s water customers. That payment was also part of the settlement agreement and also comes out of the water fund.
Each of the city’s 52,000 water accounts in Youngstown and surrounding suburbs will receive a credit of about $28 as part of the agreement.
The city has six months from a final March 29 court order to provide the credit, but will probably do so before that, said Nicole Alexander, an assistant city law director.
City officials may have a plan by next week as to when it will provide the credits, said Kyle Miasek, interim finance director and a board of control member.
The lawsuit, filed in February 2016, contended Youngstown violated state law and the city charter by using water and wastewater “surplus revenues to issue grants and payments to private parties involving projects unrelated to the purposes and activities necessary for providing the water and sewer utilities to its customers.”
The city had provided about $10 million to businesses, mostly in downtown, since 2010 from water and wastewater funds.
City officials say the money is for water and wastewater expenses of those economic-development projects.
There is no admission of liability by either the city or the plaintiffs in the settlement.
The city provides wastewater processing only for Youngstown residents. It sells water to city customers as well as those in Austintown, Boardman, North Jackson, Liberty, Girard and Canfield. The water sold outside the city includes an additional 40-percent surcharge.
The city’s water fund, which will provide the credits, has a surplus of about $13 million.