PERRYSBURG — Despite issues of trust by some, council approved a new Toledo water contract Tuesday with a 5-2 vote.
The new Uniform Water Purchase and Supply Agreement with the City of Toledo is a 40-year contract that will go into effect Jan. 1.
“We certainly believe that this is in the best interest of the city,” said Mayor Tom Mackin. “From all the information we received, water from any other source would have been more expensive than the Toledo option. I think we have done a lot in the last two years to address the issue of trust. It isn’t just that we have worked together, we’ve made sure the trust is verified in the contract.”
Perrysburg would have a seat on the new Toledo Regional Water Commission, which would govern issues such as rate changes. Recommendations from the commission would go directly to Toledo Council, bypassing administration and the mayor’s office. A vote of three quarters of the council would be needed to overrule the commission.
“Toledo has a state-of-the-art facility and it will not be necessary to build additional infrastructure, as would be the case with Bowling Green,” said Councilwoman Deborah Born.
In presentations to the council, the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in Toledo was shown to have excess capacity that can handle significant growth.
“Most importantly, I think Toledo is developing a much improved water system with the money they have invested recently and will invest in the next four to five years. I know they will provide a quality product in the structure of our gives us a lot of assurances we never had before with respect to governance, rates and issues like that,” said Councilman Tim McCarthy.
“Also the potential agreement with Bowling Green never came into focus, because there were too many imponderables: the cost to build new facilities, the $40 million transmission cost and we could never say with any confidence that we knew where we were headed with rates, if we had an agreement with them.”
In 2018 the administration had looked at 11 possible water options. The final two choices were Toledo water, which Perrysburg currently uses, and Bowling Green water.
Toledo is in the process of making upgrades that are part of a 10-year, $527 million plan that was designed for the fight against microcystin. The 2014 harmful algal bloom that shut down the Toledo water system, affecting almost 50,000 people in Wood County, was due to the toxic microcystin release by blue-green algae in Lake Erie.
Providing water to Perrysburg by Bowling Green would require a water treatment plant expansion and additional infrastructure to transport water to Perrysburg, Mackin said.
“Bowling Green made clear that the costs would be born by the city of Perrysburg residents entirely. That would — if you did the math — demonstrate that the costs would greater, and those costs would be significantly greater,” Mackin said.
Council President Jim Matuszak and Councilman Jonathan Smith, who is chair of the public utilities committee, voted against the contract.
Matuszak had a vigorous debate with Mackin about the possibility of the Bowling Green option and the need for the new contract with Toledo, given the remaining seven years left on the current contract.
“We now have seven years left on our contract. As soon as Toledo was forced to open their books and figure out where they stand, so they could negotiate with the surrounding communities, and they put together a deal, that they are forced to make, because they had strong negotiators in the surrounding communities. They were forced to do that because they have to make half a billion dollars in improvements to their public utilities infrastructure that is in disrepair, due to neglect,” Matuszak said.
“So they had to make a contract. Then when they did, they gave us 45 days to either approve it or not approve it. And if we don’t approve it ,we can’t come back later and say we’d like to get involved with this. We can’t pursue other options. Take it or leave it. That’s why I felt like I had a gun to my head.”
Toledo had requested notification of the intentions of currently contracting entities within 45 days of the contract approval by Toledo city council on Sept. 3.
“It will be interesting to see if 10 years from now people are asking,’Why did we do this?’ People are going to ask, next year, when their water rates go up, why they went up so much. A valid answer will be because the City of Perrysburg agreed to enter a contract with Toledo. They start going up next year more than they would go up had we not entered this contract,” Matuszak said.
The new contract will be consolidating water rates into only three rates: retail, wholesale and industrial. Prior to this contract, municipalities negotiated their own rates, resulting in many different rates.
“I voted because I believed we actually had two legitimate options between Bowling Green and Toledo. While Bowling Green has not been courting us, I honestly believe that if we were to not go with Toledo, Bowling Green would approach us and we could sit and talk,” Smith said. “Ultimately, to me it came down to who would be a better regional partner for us.”
Perrysburg was the last of eight entities currently with Toledo water to vote on the contract. All have now approved that contract. The Northwestern Water and Sewer District Board of Trustees approved the Toledo regional water agreement at Thursday’s meeting
The other entities that will be getting water from Toledo are Fulton County, Lucas County, Maumee, Sylvania, Monroe County South Water District and Whitehouse.
Had any of the entities declined the contract, the negotiated rates could have gone up for all the other signatories.