A proposal to increase water rates in Toledo will soon be going before City Council, but not before Council President Joe McNamara voices his concerns on the impact.
At the State of the City address, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell proposed increasing water rates in response to the Ohio EPA's concerns over the city's drinking water treatment plant. Water bills have already been increased, mainly due to the work needed to meet the requirements of the consent decree with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to stop the release of sewage into the waterways.
The analysis that went into the rate structure for the Toledo Waterways Initiative project included an Affordability Study that analyzed rates against financial conditions in Toledo to determine how much of a burden these rates would be on the average Toledoan.
"Members of Council are very cognizant of the tough times Toledoans are still going through and how burdensome it is for some people to pay their bills, so taking a look at affordability has got to be a central part of this debate," explained McNamara.
McNamara says before any water rate increase proposal is voted on, the administration should take a close look at the potential impact on pocket books across the Glass City.
On Wednesday morning, McNamara called on the Bell administration to conduct an "affordability analysis" to determine consequences of rate increases. He wants the Bell administration to update the 2010 Affordability Study and expand it to include all water utilities. By objectively showing the impact of Toledo water rates, McNamara says he hopes to take the politics out of the upcoming debate of water rates.
"Every member of Council wants faucets to run and toilets to flush, but no member wants to raise water rates beyond what is necessary," said McNamara. "We have to be transparent with taxpayer dollars and transparent with the needs of the water system, while acknowledging what citizens can afford."
McNamara says he is not opposed to increasing rates if they are necessary to help pay for repairs to the water treatment plant. However, he wants to make sure the city does its homework before any action is taken.
"A side-by-side comparison of water rates of what Toledoans pay versus other cities is not good enough, because a side-by-side comparison doesn't look at other economic factors that are going on in Toledo. A side-by-side comparison doesn't show the unemployment rate. It doesn't show the number of rate payers," explained McNamara.
Regarding a bid for mayor of Toledo, McNamara has set up an active website. He says he will decide in a few weeks if he will run for mayor or seek re-election to Council.
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