Streetsboro -- City water customers may soon face an increase of 15 percent in their water rates over the next three years, according to Mayor Glenn Broska.
That increase would be in addition to a 1.75 percent annual increases passed on by the county and a 2 percent "annual increase," according to a water analysis presented to City Council Nov. 19.
Finance Director Jenny Esarey said the increases are needed to help the city pay for the $3.49 million water tower and upcoming water line projects in Ward 1 and in Sunny Slopes.
"We don't want to deplete the fund balances so much in case something happens," she told Council Nov. 25. "We have to make sure we have the funds available if we have a sink hole, if we have a catastrophe with a pipe."
Including the "county pass through increase" and 2 percent "annual increase," the current water rate for city water customers is $46.50 per 1,000 cubic feet, according to the study. The increase would raise that to $50.57 per 1,000 cubic feet in 2014, $54.99 in 2015 and $59.81 in 2016, according to the water analysis.
City Council member Tim Claypoole said he opposes the rate hike and would vote against a forthcoming ordinance which would enact it.
"I, for one, am not in favor of raising the water rates 8.75 percent each year for the next three years," he said. "That's almost a 30-percent water rate increase, and, to me, that's an excessive increase."
Broska said the increase is needed because the city didn't pass on increases from its supplier, Portage County, during the past seven or eight years.
"If those increases had been passed on, we wouldn't have had to float a bond to pay for the water tower," he said.
If the city hikes the rates as the administration proposes, Broska said the city could pay off the 18-year water tower bond in 10 years, saving about $492,000.
It also would enable the city to complete water line installations for Sunny Slopes and improvements in Ward 1 in 2014. The combined cost of the two projects to the city would be about $1.4 million for the work, he added.
Several City Council members said, unfortunately, it appears the water rates should be increased.
"We have quite a bit in the city that's old and is going to fail," said Ward 1 City Council Representative Bridget Pavlick. "I don't like this any more than anybody else does. I use water; I pay for water."
Broska said he plans to present an ordinance to City Council authorizing the increase.
Now-former City Council member Chuck Kocisko said the city needs to raise the rates and stop tip-toeing around the issue.
"All these issues that pertain to water are expensive -- there's no doubt about it," he said. "I don't like it either. I'm not afraid to take the heat to incur the water rate [increase]."
However, he said safety needs outweigh cost concerns in this instance.
"There's people who don't have hydrants were you have bring a water truck out to it," he said. "It's a safety issue in those areas that don't have water."
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens