Jackson-Milton may face large water-rate hike

NORTH JACKSON — The Mahoning County commissioners told Milton and Jackson township trustees and the mayor of Craig Beach on Wednesday that the price of water in the county owned Jackson Milton Water District will rise to $10.50 per thousand gallons July 1 and rise again to $14.29 per thousand gallons Jan. 1, 2027, if the commissioners approve the rate increases proposed by an engineering firm.

Residents currently pay $5.25 per thousand gallons, said Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham, who attended the meeting partly as a Lake Milton resident.

Commissioner David Ditzler said the meeting was not intended to be a “question and answer” session, and he referred questions to Pat Ginnetti, the commissioners-appointed sanitary engineer, who was not at the meeting because he was out of town. Ginnetti could not be reached by phone Wednesday evening.

The commissioners briefly discussed the numbers and handed out copies of the proposed rates during a commissioners “staff meeting” at the Jackson Township Hall on Monday night. The meeting was intended to share the details of the rate study with township and village officials in the water district, as they promised they would do, Ditzler said.

“We said all along once we got the rate study that we would come back and provide the rate study results to elected officials in the three communities — Craig Beach and Jackson and Milton townships — and take that back and digest it,” Ditzler said of township and village officials.

He said the plan is for the commissioners to put the rate increases on the commissioners’ agenda and vote on it in June. County Administrator Audrey Tillis said it’s possible it will be on the agenda for June 8.

Ditzler said that other than the proposed rate increase, “everything else will remain status quo.” Ditzler chose his words carefully, but said the proposed rate increase “doesn’t consume anyone with respect to being drastic. We looked at these compared to a lot of rates” from Youngstown and Aqua Ohio, and the proposed rates “are very competitive, if not lower, than most of the rates countywide.”

He would not say whether the commissioners will approve the increased rates, but the tone of his remarks were encouraging to the township and village officials in attendance, who took the information to mean the commissioners were considering keeping the water district instead of selling it, as Ditzler suggested a year ago.

Milton Township Trustee Wendy DiBernardo thanked the commissioners for “taking the time to look into this, and we ask that you consider keeping it in-house and keeping it under your control, and I think everyone’s going to be thrilled with that.”

Jackson Township Trustee John Jakubec said he thinks the rates will rise whether the county keeps the water district or “another outfit” runs it. He said he thinks the county’s sanitary sewer rates also will rise. “If we can keep it in-house, I think everyone would totally accept it.”

Jackson Township Trustee Tom Frost said he likes having the county provide water to the area better than before the county ran it. “Now that it is county owned, it’s much easier. Development is much easier,” he said, adding “It sounds like you’re ready to make the right decision on this.”

Ditzler said the rate study was done “to bring stability to the water district that the Mahoning County commissioners currently oversee.”

Ditzler said Pat Ginnetti, who is county engineer and appointed county sanitary engineer “has most of the information and is responsible for providing us with the recommendation from him as to what and when.” Ginnetti’s position as sanitary engineer puts him in charge of the county-owned Jackson Milton Water District and the county’s sanitary sewer districts.

Ditzler suggested that if the trustees or mayor had questions, they should “put them together” and present them to Tillis to present to Ginnetti, “or our office may be able to answer them as well.”

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the commissioners “heard you loud and clear” when water district customers attended a meeting last year on the proposed sale of the water district. All 22 people who spoke said they wanted the county to keep the water district instead of selling it.

Commissioner Carol Rimedio Righetti said the commissioners are “transparent,” so when they said they would bring the water-rate study to officials in the townships and village, “that’s exactly what we did.” She asked that questions on the issue be put in writing.

She said the commissioners will issue a “notice” stating when the commissioners plan to vote on the matter. The commissioners generally post the agenda for for their regular Thursday public meeting the day before on the commissioners website. The time and date of their regular weekly meeting is generally 10 a.m. Thursdays in the basement of the county courthouse.



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