Toledo voters to decide on regional water system

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TOLEDO - (13abc, Action News) -

Toledo and eight other jurisdiction were supposed to have a deal creating a Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) ready for a judge by March 15th.

But now that's delayed because of a new reading of the Toledo City Charter which says voters must approve such a general public utility.

It's not a contingency the mayor thought necessary a month ago when Toledo and eight other jurisdictions signed an agreement to create a regional water system.

The mayor was told he didn't need voter approval.

But then a law firm looked over Section 79 of the city charter, which says, "...voters must approve any lease of a general public utility..."

The mayor says he looks forward to a public vote and is not concerned about the outcome.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz says, "There is no part of me that believes a citizens wants to see his or her water rate triple."

It is unclear if the Hicks-Hudson administration, which was negotiating with the other partners, worked under the assumption voters would have to approve the agreement.

Council president Matt Cherry said the long agreement was "dropped in our lap very recently."

When asked by 13abc reporter Bill Hormann if council did not know the details while they were being worked out, he said, "That's absolutely correct and this could be one of the biggest decisions city council ever makes."

Council did have one representative in those discussions, former member Lindsay Webb.

She says 14 complicated versions of the agreement were created and updates would have been confusing.

But Webb says, the new mayor was in the final meeting the day after the election.

Webb says, "They were appraised and had copies of the memorandum of understanding and were brought up to speed."

Regardless, council was left flat-footed and faced a March 15th deadline for passage, which it will not meet.

Councilman Nick Komives says, "We had to educate ourselves before we could face the public, and now we're ready to face the public and start answering their questions and hearing their concerns."

Letting voters decide whether to join a regional water authority is not only smart politically but it would likely prevent a legal challenge.

But first, council's Water Committee has to approve, then council.

Don't expect any of that to happen until at least April.

Voters could see the measure on the ballot in November.

Throughout the month of March, council members will hold public meetings addressing concerns and questions about creation of a water authority.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz invited all to attend the meetings, which were scheduled with the six district Toledo council members. There will be one meeting in each council district.

The meetings will be:

• Thursday, March 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Council District 2, Bowsher High School, 2200 Arlington Ave.

• Thursday, March 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Council District 3, East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave.

• Thursday, March 15, 6-7:30 p.m.
Council District 5, Sanger Branch Library, 3030 West Central Ave.

• Thursday, March 22, 6-8 p.m.
Council District 6, Friendship Park Community Center, 2930 131st St.

• Monday, March 26, 6-7:30 p.m.
Council District 1, Gesu Sullivan Center, 2049 Parkside Blvd.

• Thursday, March 29, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Council District 4, Nexus Healthcare, 1415 Jefferson Ave.

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