Shredding the Curtain: Déjà vuWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s said those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That played out as several items before Toledo City Council on June 7 had been raised before.
Not long ago, Mayor Mike Bell’s administration sought an increase in charges for water, sanitary sewer and storm water rates. After several public meetings, a compromise was passed by a majority of Council on Feb. 8.
Water rates were increased by 9 percent a year for four years and sanitary sewer rates were increased by 3 percent a year with a fixed surcharge for the Toledo Waterways Initiative (TWI). The legislation to increase storm water rates by 7.5 percent a year was referred back to the administration, which means that portion of the public utility rates did not increase.
June 2: Councilman Joe McNamara announced the administration had presented legislation that if approved would increase the storm water fees. Currently it is $0.1248 a day per Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) which the City said costs the average resident $3.80 a month. Those eligible for the Water Discount Program are charged $0.0936 per day per ERU which the City said averages to $2.85 per month.
The new rate proposed would increase the average cost per month by 28 cents a month for those who receive the water discount and 37 cents a month for the average customer not qualified for the discount. The next three years there would be a yearly 9.9 percent increase.
Concern was expressed by Council that storm water rates impact the business community and economic development since its usage is higher than the average customer. A hearing will take place on this issue.
McNamara sought to have the hearing include Nancy Wheatley who is an attorney who has handled the TWI project and represented Toledo before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s been suggested several times in the past that if Toledo were to renegotiate the terms of the consent decree it has with the EPA that it could create savings.
While TWI is separate from storm water rates, McNamara said customers only get one bill and if the consent decree terms could be extended the savings could be either passed along to customers, reduce or negate an increase in other public utility rates.
Negotiating with the EPA is a detailed process. It does have some associated costs; the Bell administration does not support it. Its position is Toledo has received all the concessions it is going to get from the EPA. Wheatley’s recommendation has been that it is worth considering. McNamara’s request to have Wheatley come to Toledo for a public hearing before Council was not supported by the administration.
It was agreed that a conference call with Wheatley could take place, most likely held in executive session. Law Director Adam Loukx said since it involved litigation he was not comfortable with discussion taking place in public concerning this.
July 20, 2010: Approval for emergency legislation was sought to renew Toledo’s “all-risk” property insurance policy with FM Global. The policy had expired, another company had offered a bid for a lower price, the administration’s position was that the more than 20 year relationship with FM Global, the membership rebates offered and the level of services offered made its offer better despite the higher price.
June 7: legislation was before Council because the yearly policy with FM Global had expired and this time the policy cost and the deductible had increased. The summary and background of the legislation listed the reason for the increase as, “a direct result of City Council’s instructions to file insurance claims to pay to maintain and repair the City’s aging sewer lines rather only for unforeseen catastrophic perils.”
During Council, Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers and Loukx said the increase from FM Global was because there were public hearings that drew attention to the condition of Toledo’s aging water and sewer lines. It was said two claims were filed with FM Global, but one was withdrawn.
A majority of Council approved the policy renewal both years, though it was said next year, bids would be sought prior to the expiration of the policy in 2012. Considering the history of Council accepting the higher bid, it will be interesting to see if anyone other than FM Global even answers the request for proposal next year. O
Toledo Free Press Web Editor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.