County wants to end water war

ROSSFORD ­­- In a region so rich with water, it is just wrong for Wood County to be paying so steeply for
the natural resource, according to public officials who held a water forum Thursday evening in Rossford.

"There is no reason why water should not be an asset," said State Rep. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling
Green, who hosted the forum with Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown. "There’s got to be a better
way."
The current situation – with Wood County customers paying huge surcharges and being forced to share
income tax in exchange for Toledo water – is "intolerable," Gardner said.
"It is particularly tough on us" to hand over tax base to Toledo, Brown said. "We’ve spent
time and effort developing those jobs for you. This is no different than a tax increase for you."

The issue is particularly sensitive in Rossford, where residents are just beginning to get their latest
water bills with the new rates from Toledo.
Rossford Mayor Bill Verbosky explained that his city previously paid the base water rate plus a 40
percent surcharge. That surcharge has jumped to 125 percent, as Rossford officials try to get Toledo to
agree to a more reasonable contract, the mayor said.
"You will get your next bills and you will be shocked," Verbosky warned his residents in the
audience.
At the same time, Toledo officials want to raise their share of income tax from the Crossroads area from
27 to 40 percent. If Rossford does not agree to that increase, Toledo officials have threatened to shut
off water to the Crossroads area in two years.
"That’s not fair negotiations," Verbosky said. "Wood County as a whole realizes the whole
northern part of the county is at a disadvantage dealing with Toledo."
While Verbosky said he understands the need to pay some type of surcharge for water infrastructure, the
steep rate increases are the equivalent of Rossford being held "hostage" by Toledo.
"We’ve always been willing to pay our share," he said.
But in Rossford’s case, Toledo only provides the water. Rossford financed the infrastructure and
maintains the system.
"We paid for the waterline to go out to the Crossroads. We paid for the sewer line to go out to the
Crossroads," Verbosky said. "We borrowed millions, which we’re still paying on."
Some in the audience referred to Toledo officials as "thugs" and "extortionists."
"The mayor of the city of Toledo is extorting residents," Perrysburg area developer Brian
McMahon said. "What he is doing to you is wrong."
McMahon said efforts are being made to replace Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner with someone who will use
water as an economic tool, not an extortion tool.
"Be patient, he’s not going to be there very long," he said of Finkbeiner.
One mayoral candidate, Mike Bell, was present at the forum and assured residents that he has plans for a
regional water compact, which would mend fences broken down by the current Toledo administration –
"So the word ‘Toledo’ isn’t a bad word in the city of Rossford," he said.
Gardner suggested the water issue could be solved one of two ways: Building cooperation with Toledo or
finding other water sources. The Wood County Commissioners already took one step toward other sources
recently by supporting a study looking at water from Ottawa County. "They want and understand the
importance of Northwest Ohio thriving as a region," Brown said of Ottawa County officials, who are
interested in supplying Wood County with water.
Other options are being considered, such as water from Bowling Green, or a new plant supplied by the
Maumee River or Lake Erie. Though building a new plant would be costly, the savings from not paying
Toledo surcharges and income tax could pay off quickly, Gardner said.