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Toronto takes right step with water rates

December 1, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

One of the hardest duties of a civil servant or elected official is to tell citizens what they don't want to hear, even if its for the health of the municipality.

Just like households, however, civil servants wouldn't be doing their constituents any good in running away from a situation that would be better addressed sooner. Such is the situation in Toronto, where City Council just voted to raise water and sewage rates for city residents and businesses.

The rate for the first 3,000 gallons of water has increased from $20 to $24 per month per customer, with $6 charged for each additional 1,000 gallons after that. Also, the sewage rates also have increased to $18 for the first 3,000 gallons per month, with an additional $6 charged for each additional 1,000 gallons.

Ohio law requires sewage and water municipal accounts to stand alone and be self-funded. In other words, they can't run a deficit.

For years Toronto has enjoyed very low rates for water and sewage due to good management and the city having its own water treatment plant. However, city Auditor Bob Owen has advised city rates be increased to keep pace with rising costs for chemicals used to treat water, energy and repairs.

Additionally, the city's water distribution infrastructure requires updates as mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The alarming number of water line breaks in the past five years also is a sign the city's aging distribution system needs overhauled. Updates at the city's sewage treatment plant also are needed.

Mayor John Geddis also is thinking ahead in that to be eligible for grant funds and low-interest loans needed for the updates the increases were necessary. No one would be willing to give grants or loans for an overhaul if a municipality couldn't prove it could pay it back or its enterprise fund was in the red.

Geddis has said at previous council meetings he believes the city will be eligible for grant funding to pay for a substantial portion of the water and sewage upgrades. This will save Toronto taxpayers funds in the long run, as any overhaul will be an expensive proposition.

The current administration has done an outstanding job in the past in acquiring grants and low-interest loans for needed city projects. We believe city officials when they state the increases are necessary for the long-term financial health of the city and will save taxpayers funds in the end.

Even with the increases, Geddis had said Toronto water customers will be paying less than customers in other neighboring municipalities, including in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Mingo Junction and Wintersville.

A little pain for city water customers now could result in bigger savings later.

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