Surging water costs protested

PERRYSBURG – When a Friendly Village resident called to complain about her abnormally high water bill,
she was informed the $90 monthly bill was likely from filling her swimming pool.
"I live in a 14 by 70 mobile home" – with no pool, she said.
When Mark Heidet returned home after spending 32 days in the hospital, he was met by a water bill that
had jumped from $28 to $73 a month. He hadn’t even been home during the billing period to use any water.

And when Janet Paquette called the new billing company, Universal Utilities, to question the high bills,
she was told there was nothing she could do about the increase.
"I’m mad. I’m mad," Paquette said. "There’s got to be some control."
Residents of the Friendly Village manufactured home parks in Perrysburg Township packed a meeting
Thursday evening to complain about water bills that as much as tripled when a new billing company took
over in the neighborhoods off Oregon Road.
They angrily waved their most recent water bills, begging local officials to help them put an end to the
unfair billing practices. One resident, Raymond Scott, presented a Better Business Bureau report giving
the billing company the grade of "F." And while Universal Utilities put individual meters on
each home, many neighbors questioned if their meters were even being read, since several of them had
identical bills though they had varying water usages.
Calls from the Sentinel-Tribune on Friday to Universal Utilities, in Flint, Mich., and to the management
at Friendly Village were not returned.
But the residents’ pleas were heard by State Rep. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Wood County
Commissioner Tim Brown, who hosted Thursday’s water forum.
Gardner, Brown and Jerry Greiner, executive director of the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, tried
to get some answers for Friendly Village residents, and met with Paquette again Friday afternoon. But
what they came up with were more questions than answers. Based on the bills handed over by residents, it
was impossible to determine why the bills tripled in many cases.
It appears, Paquette said, that Choice Properties, the owners of the manufactured home park, or Universal
Utilities can charge any rate they desire.
"That’s extortion," she said.
It also appears, that the minimum base rate went from $1.20 to $33 a month – even if no water is used.

"That’s the basic rate for whether you’re even there," Gardner said.
Greiner said the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio may have some regulatory powers over Choice
Properties.
"There is no other agency who is going to weigh in," he said.
However, the PUCO does not regulate municipal water systems, such as the Friendly Village water from the
city of Toledo, nor does it regulate billing agents.
"We only regulate privately owned water companies," Shana Eiselstein, spokeswoman for the PUCO,
said after Friday’s meeting. "There’s nothing we can do for them."
In order to get some answers for residents, Gardner and Brown plan to hold another public meeting for
Friendly Village residents with representatives of Choice Properties and Universal Utilities being
invited.
"The residents of Friendly Village deserve answers," Gardner said. "I think the management
owes them direct answers."