Toledo Water Agreement – Is it Good?

The City of Toledo’s mayor and administration sent to their city council an ordinance asking for approval for the mayor to sign a new water agreement with the suburbs.

This agreement called the “Uniform Water Purchase and Supply Agreement” would sell water to the eight contract communities with existing expiring contracts. Seven of these entities would transition to a wholesale water rate formula for purchases over eight years. (The sole exception is Lucas County who would transition its rates similar to Toledo using a “retail-cost of operation” basis).

Is This A Good Agreement?

Yes and no, would be my answer, for now.

Yes, in that it reduces ongoing costs that are reflected in wholesale (cost-of-treating) water expenses. Prior to this, all contracts included water rates that were calculated using retail as well as wholesale expenses. Retail is the cost to serve the treatment and delivery of water from the water plant directly to the consumer’s tap. Examples of these expenses include the cost to cover meter-reading, billing, collection and customer service. Such expenses will no longer be charged to wholesale purchases since these services are no longer needed from Toledo. The buyers of wholesale water will provide these services and incur these costs when they calculate their own local charges which are included in the distribution or operation and maintenance (O&M) rates.  Besides changes in the rate formula, we would have a seat on the new Regional Water Commission with oversight of rates and capital project budgeting.

No, because in our Toledo water service area, we currently have five different contract areas, with differing rates and these rates will be adjusted up or down over the next eight years.  While we prefer a shorter transition, this is what was negotiated with the City of Toledo and other contracting communities.  The impact of these new rates will vary depending upon our customer’s contract areas.  Some will see increasing rates and some will see stable or decreasing rates over the transition period.   Regardless all contracts will include the $500 million investment in the City of Toledo water treatment system and the debt will be equitably distributed among all customers, including those in Whitehouse, Lucas County, Maumee, Perrysburg, Fulton County, Monroe County, and Perrysburg.

In addition to the change in the formula for water rates, Toledo insists on leaving an economic development paragraph in the contract which requires income tax-sharing from our area’s governments (who already had such agreements in place). So, besides the changes in rate calculation (and loss of the higher discounts), the tax-sharing is a new requirement not seen before. This tax-sharing issue is a difficult issue for us as we cannot commit tax-sharing for our other contract communities.

What’s Next

Toledo hopes to approve this agreement on September 5th. The 8 adjacent buyers will review it soon thereafter. The District will be hosting a public forum on this and other alternatives on Thursday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. at the Quality Inn, 10612 Fremont Pike, Perrysburg, Ohio. Two speakers will outline the two primary options for our board and public. All are invited, but please call ahead for seating reservations and any special accommodation needs.

Our board will likely decide mid-late fall 2019 since our contract(s) expire 2024, just a few years away!

Jerry Greiner

President

August 19, 2019

Five years ago today…

This year marks the five-year anniversary of the “Do Not Drink Tap Water Advisory” for people in the City of Toledo’s water service area.  In the early morning hours of August 2, 2014, around 400,000 residents in Northwestern Ohio woke up to hear from the local media that they should not drink tap water supplied by the city’s treatment plant due to contamination concerns associated with a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) in Lake Erie.

The Northwestern Water and Sewer District supplies around 6,500 customers in Northern Wood County with water treated at Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.  When we received notification from the City regarding the contaminated water, The District moved quickly to offer free drinking water from our WaterShed at our Middleton Pike location, which uses water treated by the City of Bowling Green.  The District also provided bottled water and advised people to use water from surrounding water systems that were not impacted by the “Do Not Drink Tap Water Advisory.”

The District, along with countless other municipal water distributors and treatment agencies locally and across our nation, learned much as a result of this water crisis.  The City of Toledo has invested $350 million in improvements to The Collins Park Treatment Plant, and it has improved outreach to the public and to its suburban partners that purchase treated water from Toledo.  National and local research continues to look into the complex causes of HABs and the effects they can have on water supplies.  All of this has improved our water quality in Northwest Ohio, and our ability to respond to HAB threats.

But HABs still exist in Lake Erie, and so does the fear of another “Do Not Drink Advisory”.   As a precaution, The District has taken many steps to increase redundancy throughout our entire water distribution system, regardless of who supplies your water.

Because we distribute water from various municipal sources including Bowling Green, Oregon, Toledo, Fostoria, and the Village of McComb, The District can offer water from a variety of sources at our WaterShed locations spread throughout our service area.  If another emergency does occur, we can deactivate the purification units to supply tap water in select locations not impacted by HAB’s.

With all these steps taken, we know there is still concern regarding water quality during HAB season.  Here are a few things all of us can do to prepare for water emergencies.

If you are concerned about HABs:

  1. Know where your water comes from. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!
  2. Sign up HEREfor emergency notifications. Please be sure your information is updated.
  3. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also recommends you keep a supply of water for all types of disaster. LIST OF ITEMS FOR EMERGENCY SUPPLY KIT

 

Jerry Greiner

District Merger Update

District Merger Update
Henry County Regional Water and Sewer and
Northwestern Water and Sewer District

In the last two weeks, both our District and the Board of Henry County Regional Water and Sewer District have agreed to study the merits of a merger between our two districts.  This would be done to improve the efficiency and operations of the HCRWSD as well as expand the service area of The Northwestern Water and Sewer District.

What happens next?

An operations agreement is under review and discussion between the two parties.  It will outline the scope and terms of operations during the next 60-90 days while the merger is being finalized.

Specifically, The Northwestern Water and Sewer District is already involved in field operations, performing restoration work and hydrant repairs.  Our Geographic Information System (GIS) crew has been identifying and locating above and below ground fixtures such as fire hydrants, valves as well as water and sewer taps.  This will provide accurate maps and electronic field data for our field crews for emergencies and everyday operations.  This is extremely helpful to our staff and helps deliver quality service to our customers.

Billing and customer service details are still being resolved.  Henry County has been working under contract with an individual who processes their billing.  It would be the preference of the parties to extend this arrangement to continue “business as normal” for most customer needs.

In time, The Northwestern Water and Sewer District will assume these duties.  Our billing software and meter reading capabilities will greatly improve customer service capabilities.  For example, our AquaHawk service will allow customers to view daily water use online and to set up text alerts for possible leaks or high use.  It also allows our staff to monitor possible leaks.  The Northwestern Water and Sewer District also uses the Code Red Notification system.  This automated calling system informs our customers of water-related issues, such as boil notices or other water emergencies.

Letters, emails and press releases, as well as social media will be used to inform customers about this merger as details are worked out.  You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter @nwwsd.  Information will also be posted on our website www.nwwsd.org.

This merger is a great opportunity for The Northwestern Water and Sewer District to serve a larger area and improve operations for customers in Henry County.

Jerry Greiner

President
Northwestern Water and Sewer District

Continued Economic Development Efforts in Wood County

Continued Economic Development Efforts in Wood County
A blog from District President, Jerry Greiner

The District finds itself in the middle of all of the recent economic development announcements in the county.  I would love to say this is planned, but there’s no denial our county’s geographical location in the Midwest brings others to us!

The intersection of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike 80/90 opens our region to commerce from markets across the entire country.  Combined with excellent rail, Great Lakes access, the Maumee River and both regional and national airports, our area is natural for development.

We have done more than sit idle and wait for calls.  For example, our long-standing board member John Cheney was the first chairman of the Wood County Economic Development Commission (WCEDC) when it was formed in 1994.  His direction of the public-private board in its early years got the county involved in economic development 25 years ago.  I followed John on this executive board since his retirement from his employer Hancock Wood Electric Co-op.

Today, our office provides GIS mapping services and support material to WCEDC and commercial realtors as well as immediate utility information via phone, email, texts, and social media.

As we were working on our 2019 budget, I found we have spent almost $215 million dollars on our county-wide water and sanitary sewer infrastructure in the last 9 years.  This is new lines as well as replacement expenditures throughout our service areas.

Using a combination of rate revenue, state and federal grants as well as loan monies, we have been able to do this in a reasonable, efficient manner.

Needless to say, no one in the region has invested these funds and resources to deliver and protect jobs and tax base in our county!

Jerry Greiner

President

 

Helping Our Economy Grow

BLOG 10-25-2018

Economic Development in Wood County

It’s been a very, very good year for economic development in Wood County.  How good?  Companies have committed to invest $750 million in new facilities and expansions, creating an estimated 700 new jobs.

A few projects the Wood County Economic Development Commission has supported include:

  • A new First Solar Plant
  • The expansion of the Walgreen’s Distribution facility
  • A new NSG Glass North American (Pilkington)
  • The expansion of Continental Plastics
  • CSX/NorthPoint Development Logistics Park

Who Benefits?

  • People looking for employment
  • Local school districts
  • Local communities with income tax (where applicable)
  • County property taxes
  • The District

What does this industrial growth mean for The District?

  • Most fixed costs in our operations can be allocated over more users. Those with larger demands of use, such as non-residential high-volume users, pay more as they use more
  • Less reliance on residential use
  • Long-term usage potential

How did we support this developmental boom?

Simple, we planned for growth.  For years, we’ve designed, built, and repaired the system to provide long-term reliable service for all users.  Using loans and grants, we have a system with the capacity to serve more users without a lot of additional capital cost.

For example, we were the catalyst behind the extension of water & sewer services in Troy Township.  Using 1/3 grant, 1/3 revenue bond, and 1/3 assessment formula, we built the system which now allows or this development.  There was no local tax dollars or any local incentives for us to build it.  Thus, we had some risk at the time.  However, the project helped to benefit a sewer system to Stony Ridge & Lemoyne at a much lower cost to them.  Now others can benefit!

More growth on the way?

It’s hard to predict when it will occur, but it’s important to use to be prepared when it does! The District is committed to working with our partners in economic development and being involved as a local leader.  We will continue to look for responsible ways to plan ahead to improve the quality of water & sewer services in the region.

Jerry Greiner, President
Northwestern Water & Sewer District

Regional Water Update

August 14, 2018
The Northwestern Water & Sewer District is monitoring on-going studies of water options in Northwest Ohio.  I hope this helps your understanding in our continued discussions on Toledo Water – Jerry Greiner, President.

TOLEDO DISCUSSIONS
The District has attended multiple meetings with the City of Toledo exploring the financial and governance details of the formation of a Toledo Water Commission.  These meetings attended by the original technical committee made up of members from the suburbs, prior to TAWA.  The City has been forthcoming with detailed financial information and this has been helpful to all communities involved in discussions.    In mid-July, The District toured the Collins Park Treatment plant and was encouraged with the progress of the ongoing $500 million in capital improvements to the plant.

Tonight, Toledo City Council may vote to amend the City’s charter and form the Toledo Water Commission.  This will be the first and biggest step by Toledo City council to move forward to a regional agreement.   A yes vote would allow for a change to the city charter and bring the Toledo Water Commission up for a public vote in November.   We will monitor this closely, as I am sure many of you will.

BOWLING GREEN DISCUSSIONS

The City of Perrysburg, along with the City of Maumee and The District has recently accepted qualifications for a study investigating the possibility of expansion of the City of Bowling Green water service area.  At this point we estimate this detailed look to be complete this fall or winter.

ARTESIAN OF PIONEER PROPOSAL

The City of Sylvania, along with Cities of Maumee and Perrysburg, the villages of Liberty Center and Whitehouse, the Henry County Water & Sewer District and The Northwestern Water and Sewer District are moving forward with a study to investigate the possibility of using the underground Michindoh Aquifer that extends in parts of Ohio, Michigan and northeast Indiana.   The group plans to move forward on testing two well sites over the next few months.

TIMELINE
We estimate that by late fall the studies, along with results from a possible vote on the proposed Toledo Water Commission, will be complete.  At that time, The District will host a public meeting to present information on regional water issues.

Facing (Rate) Challenges Head on

The District has never backed away from the challenges that come with running a water and sewer utility.  Perhaps one of the largest issues facing the water industry in the United States today is how households will continue to pay for increased costs for water and sewer systems.  A national survey shows water rates increasing in 30 U.S. cities.  Locally, it’s no different.

The number one criticism we receive through our customer service department, as well as through  comments to our board members, District staff and myself has to be “You charge too much for water & sewer!”

That is why The District will be commissioning a formal rate study.  We are currently seeking an outside, independent consultant to investigate the possibility of introducing a customer assistance program, and to look into an equal rate for all customers, including residential, multi-family, business and industrial.   The rate study will also consider inflation and other possible future cost increases facing water and sewer utilities.   The study will provide a ten year plan for future water and sewer rates.

We estimate the review of our current rate and billing structure will be complete by the fall of 2019.

Where The District Stands (Today) on Regional Water

BLOG – Entry by Jerry Greiner, President of The Northwestern Water & Sewer District

June 21, 2018

At The District, we continue to explore options for water for our 6,500 customers in Northern Wood County who are currently served with water provided by The City of Toledo.

The District owns and operates the water and sewer systems within the political subdivisions of Northwood, Rossford, Walbridge, Lake Township, Perrysburg Township, and Troy Township.  We have provided quality water services to these communities for years and will continue to focus on quality water and fair rates during these talks.

If you are confused by media reports or are wondering where The District stands, hopefully, this summary can clear things up.  Keep in mind that talks continue and there are new developments daily, so the opinion in this entry is subject to change.

The Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA)

The Toledo Chamber of Commerce-led proposal for Toledo to share ownership of their plant etc. has stalled most likely ended.  The current mayor of Toledo’s representative said they had no support from Toledo City Council to proceed with it.  The Toledo Chamber has done a remarkable job with the effort and expense and continues to have hope in some form of regional cooperation.  The District continues to participate in TAWA discussions, but at this point does not see it moving forward.

TOLEDO WATER COMMISSION IDEA

In late May, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz proposed a regional water commission.  In this plan, water purchasers (like The District) could buy water at a wholesale rate and have a “commission-like” board seat that would oversee rates.  However, Toledo would withhold the right to set final rates and retain ownership.  A technical committee has been meeting to review details of this plan.

I think our Board of Trustees may support this idea for this concept as it meets our long-term goal; reasonable, uniform fair water rates.  While it keeps all suburban parties at the table, until Toledo’s council “weighs-in” on this idea, it’s just more talk.  

PERRYSBURG-MAUMEE-THE NORTHWESTERN WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT AND THE CITY OF BOWLING GREEN

Last Thursday, The District’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution to partner with the Cities of Perrysburg and Maumee to fund exploring alternative water options, of which there are several under consideration.  For example:

  • Continued talks with the city of Bowling Green
  • Discussions with Artesian of Pioneer (AOP) on a groundwater source
  • Review of using Ottawa County as a water source
  • A request for detailed specifics on what all parties require (RFQ) will soon be issued.

SUMMARY

The devil is in the details, which will hopefully be outlined by the end of this year.  Once we have them, we plan on hosting a public meeting and sharing our preferred alternative.   There are many options to consider, some reasonable, some not based on distance, water capacity or water quality concerns.  The District team is focused on fair rates and delivering quality water.  We encourage our members and our customers reach out to us with questions.  More to come…

Jerry Greiner
President, The District

Milestone Northwest Ohio Economic Development Project

From time-to-time, we get called upon to provide help for economic development projects in our area. Sometimes, they are simple plant expansions, extensions for subdivision or retail needs, or questions on warehousing projects.

Through the years, the list of industries varies and we have many calls for such things as mini- steel mills, ethanol plants, car battery manufacturers, automobile parts manufacturers, etc.

Over time, these seldom materialize, the economy changes, and nothing comes of them. We invest valuable time with little payback. But economic development is like that and The District is committed to the effort. It’s the primary reason we were a charter member of the Wood County Economic Development Commission and attend chamber events in the region.

The county economic development office has been working on a project titled “Project Shelby” it since the fall of 2017. The District has handled questions on utilities since early this year. The public notice explains it will provide:

  • $400 million dollar, 1 million square foot facility
  • Add 500 new jobs
  • Produce 1.8 gigawatts of power capacity solar cells
  • Much property tax
  • Much school tax to Lake Schools

If you saw last week’s news, it’s a new plant for First Solar making solar panels for commercial, industrial and utility-scale use. All of this in addition to last year’s $175 million dollar update at the current First Solar site in Perrysburg Township!

This is a large water and waste-water user. The site will be located at the corner of Tracy Road and SR 795. It has existing utility lines to serve it, but some improvements will be needed. Phase II may need additional work for our utilities to serve it at projected levels.

I can assure you The District will do our best!

Wood County has several good economic sites already, north-to-south. But it’s our transportation system of roads, highways, rail, air that puts us on the map! The utilities of water, sewer, electric, gas, fiber-optic further elevates our sites over others in the Midwest!

Jerry Greiner
President
April 30, 2018
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