Trumbull County and Warren disagree over waste treatment rates
By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County deputy Sanitary Engineer Gary Newbrough says the city of Warren has unilaterally imposed a 400 percent increase in the sewage-treatment rate it charges to the county, so the county may take similar action against the city.
Newbrough says Warren notified the county last year that the rate it charges the county to treat sewage from Champion Township and Lordstown will rise from the current rate of about $2 per 1,000 gallons in 2017 to $7.85 per thousand gallons in 2023.
If not challenged, the rate would require the county to increase the price it charges to customers in those areas by 200 percent to 300 percent, including businesses in Lordstown such as the General Motors assembly plant, Newbrough said.
“We are very hesitant to increase any sewer rates to the GM facility,” Newbrough said. The plant currently pays about $100,000 per month for waste treatment, but it would “more than double” under the increase, Newbrough said.
“The city has unilaterally said these are the rates you are going to pay, non-negotiable,” Newbrough said.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, however, says the city has tried to negotiate with Trumbull County and is prepared to negotiate again.
“We’ve been trying a year and a half to negotiate,” Franklin said. “We’ve tried to reach an agreement, and we’re still open to that,” the mayor said. “We’ve tried to negotiate in good faith, but it’s been hard to get to the table.”
Champion and Lordstown are part of the county’s Metropolitan Sewer District; cost to all customers in that district will rise to cover whatever increase Warren charges, Newbrough said.
Warren has indicated that the higher rates are necessary to pay for a $70 million upgrade to the Warren waste-treatment plant, but by Newbrough’s calculations, the city is asking the county to absorb the entire cost of the upgrades.
Franklin says the city has never asked the county to pay any of its treatment-plant upgrades.
Trumbull County is Warren’s largest waste-treatment customer at about 30 percent, and the county is willing to pay its share of the $70 million upgrade, but not the entire $70 million, Newbrough said.
The city increased rates for Champion and Lordstown effective Jan. 1, saying it was acting in accordance with a city ordinance. It increased the price 400 percent, Newbrough said.
Newbrough said the county has not paid the increased rate. Franklin said the county is putting the money in escrow.
On today’s commissioners agenda is a resolution notifying Warren that the county will cancel its current agreement with Warren in 180 days governing the rate the county charges to the city to treat Warren sewage from a neighborhood along North Road in the city.
The county sent letters to those residents telling them their sewer rates will rise gradually by about 360 percent through 2024 if Warren is not willing to reconsider its position.
Franklin said the city does not want the county to raise the rate for those customers because it would create a different price for that area than other Warren residents pay.
Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said he is recusing himself from voting on the issue Wednesday because it involves him and his brother, Warren Safety Service director Enzo Cantalamessa.