Streetsboro -- Mayor Glenn Broska said the city is "behind the eight-ball" because Portage County water rate increases were not passed along to Streetsboro residents from about 2006 to 2012.
To make up for the previous lack of increases, Broska believes Streetsboro water rates should increase 5 percent next year and 2 percent the following year to help pay off a proposed water tower and still be able to handle future water line projects.
Broska hopes to have the 5-percent increase in place by Jan. 1. If so, he said it would raise an extra $305,000 a year which would help pay down the bond taken out for the water tower that would be located at the old Carter Lumber site on Route 43 and cost about $3.5 million.
City Council discussed the proposed water rate increase Sept. 23, but no action was taken.
Broska and Law Director David Maistros believe the mayor can only raise water rates by 2 percent a year on his own, so Broska would need Council's blessing.
Council President Tim Claypoole, though, said it is his understanding that the mayor has the authority to increase rates at his discretion.
"We don't need a rate increase to cover the bond [for the water tower]," Claypoole said. "I do not feel a water rate increase is needed. The numbers I've looked at say we can get all the projects [Broska] wanted done without an increase."
Council member Chuck Kocisko said the city needs to increase the water rate fees.
"I don't want to deplete this [water reserve] fund," Kocisko said. "If we have a major catastrophe, we'll be in big trouble."
Broska said without water rate increases "to replenish the water reserve fund, it will have a profound effect on other water projects in the city. If we deplete the water fund, the money [for infrastructure] will have to come from someplace else."
Broska said there is about $1.7 million in the water reserve fund "that we can continually regenerate" with a water rate increase.
"Nobody wants to raise the cost, but there are certain services we have to offer," Broska said. "Some residents have said their wells have started to dry up. It would cost them thousands of dollars to have new wells drilled. This will make a better quality of water for everybody."
Broska said Streetsboro is about 25 percent behind "where we should have been" due to the lack of water rate increases passed on by Portage County.
"For some reason, those increases were not passed along to our water customers," he said. "So even by raising it 5 percent, we're still not where we should be. Because we're behind on the increases, we have to increase the fee in order to keep pace."
Resident Kelly Butler, who lives in Stonegate, believes city officials should rethink the proposed water rate increases "for those of us living off Route 303 south."
"I have called and complained, and nothing has been done," she said prior to the Council meeting. "We deal with rusty colored water, sometimes cloudy water, and if the water was any harder, it would be a solid rather than a liquid. I've been here for going on 10 years. It's terrible."
Water Superintendent John Kuklisin could not be reached for comment.
"I guess I could entertain a water rate hike if I get some assurances that it would help folks south of Route 303," Butler said. "I'm more concerned with just the quality of the water."
FB: The Gateway News