Warren leaders sue Trumbull commissioners over unpaid sewer bills

Published: Sat, November 3, 2018 @ 12:02 a.m.

Staff report


City officials are suing Trumbull County commissioners over allegations the county has not paid its sewer bills, according to a news report from 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner.

The city filed the suit Friday, naming the commissioners as defendants.

A release from the city says the bills are for wastewater treatment service Warren provides to residents and businesses in the Lordstown and Champion areas.

“The unpaid bills total upward of $3 million, most of it is many months in arrears, some is more than a year old, and the county has refused to commit to paying what it owes,” Edward Haller, director of the Warren Water Pollution Control Department, told 21 News.

The news release from Mayor Doug Franklin and Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa says a portion of the overdue account is money owed to the city by the county for a contract that expired Dec. 31, 2017.

The city claims that “since then, Trumbull County, like all other city sewer customers, is required to pay the user fees set forth in Warren’s sewer-use ordinances. However, Trumbull County has only paid the amount prescribed by the expired agreement, which is less than one-fourth of what city ordinances require and all other outside-the-city customers pay, and only 30 percent of what city residents pay.”

Warren says the city’s sewer rate for inside customers is $4.65 per thousand gallons.

The release says, however, that under the expired contract the county was only paying $1.42 per thousand gallons, and then charging Lordstown and Champions customers $6.66 per thousand gallons.

Franklin says the county failed to agree to pay more for water treatment.

“It is truly unfortunate that the city has been forced to take this step,” the mayor said. “However, despite months of negotiations, and an offer by the city to allow the county to pay the inside rate instead of the outside rate, the county has steadfastly refused to voluntarily pay anything close to the same rate we charge our own residents, or to commit to take meaningful steps to reduce the tremendous amount of stormwater and groundwater that enters county sewers which we then have to treat.”

County Commissioner Dan Polivka told 21 News the county has been in negotiations with the city, and the resulting lawsuit is unfortunate.

Polivka said the county offered to pay the city $2 million, which would have been a 100 percent increase.

Polivka also told 21 News county officials had offered to invest $200,000 to $300,000 per year into the wastewater infrastructure system.

Polivka said, however, city leaders wanted the full $3 million.

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