Aqua Ohio offers to buy Trumbull’s water system for $8 million

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Trumbull County commissioners on Thursday explored Aqua Ohio’s tentative proposal to purchase the Southeast Waters District serving the townships of Vienna, Brookfield and Hubbard for at least $8 million.

Township and City of Hubbard officials met with Aqua Ohio in July 2020 about this possibility and wrote to commissioners in January 2021 urging them to consider it.

Commissioner Niki Frenchko moved last week to deny a meeting at Aqua Ohio, but that action was never voted on, The Vindicator reported.

She led Thursday’s meeting by telling Aqua Ohio President Robert Davis and Area Manager Jennifer Johnson that the system operated by the Mahoning Valley Health District “is not currently for sale.”

Davis said that while the deal didn’t make sense to township customers, he said he thought it was incumbent on county officials to at least consider it.

During the hour-long meeting, county officials asked the water supplier about its intentions – whether it plans to expand or eventually abandon the system if it is unprofitable – and the planned price increases.

According to Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer Gary Newbrough, Aqua Ohio charges an average of $64 for 5,000 gallons of water in Mahoning County, when it would cost $43 through the health district.

Johnson said that while most utilities are working well, “we’ve seen systems that haven’t raised rates for 20 to 30 years. Frankly, that’s irresponsible. They are not able to track the systems they use.

“Our philosophy has been small incremental rate increases to keep up with maintenance,” Johnson said.

Aqua Ohio’s latest rate negotiations in Mahoning County increased monthly water bills by about $2 – but over the same period, Aqua Ohio has invested $35 million in infrastructure, it said. she declared.

Residents of parts of Hubbard Township are eager to draw from – in particular, parts of the Maplewood neighborhood – said Township Trustee Frederick Hanley, adding that his home draws water from a well which, according to he is less than a mile from an injection well.

“Hubbard Township’s problem is not water quality. We would like to have water to complain about,” he said.

Newbrough said on Thursday he was previously unaware of the “huge demand” for municipal water in that area.

“We can’t help unless we know. If the administrators come to Aqua instead of coming to the commissioners… it puts us in a position where we are not able to work for you,” Frenchko said.

Newbrough said that although county officials have met with township residents about water projects, the county has never been asked to expand service.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said county officials should first determine if there are actually any interested customers.

“We have tried several water projects with surveys of interest,” he said on Thursday. “Every one of them came back – it wasn’t affordable.”

Vienna Township Administrator Phil Pegg said Thursday that about a quarter of homes in the township have well water. Pegg has previously raised concerns about the quality of water in the district, currently supplied by the Mahoning Valley Health District through the town of Niles, as reported by The Vindicator — particularly its calcium content.

Mike McNinch, the health district’s chief engineer, on Thursday called the allegations “baseless” and said an internal review determined they were “baseless.”

Cantalamessa told Mahoning Matters after Thursday’s meeting that he doesn’t expect Aqua’s operation to be more affordable than the county, but that “it’s up to the commissioners to explore those options.”

“I think it’s been twisted and turned that we’re kind of selling the water district. But the reality is that we have areas that need water.

Below are some of Aqua Ohio’s “flexible frameworks” for how the sale could work, taken from the proposal officials considered on Thursday. All terms and conditions would be finalized during negotiations, the proposal says.

  • Aqua Ohio could pay at least $8 million for the system;
  • The company could also make deferred payments “to meet the county’s future cash flow needs”;
  • The company would consult with county officials during the transition;
  • The company would commit to a capital expenditure plan for current and future upgrades, developed in advance with the county;
  • The company could be a “uniform” water supplier for customers in the Southeast. Currently, Aqua Ohio serves part of Brookfield Township.

Here is more information on the benefits offered by Aqua to water customers:

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, the courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and the University of Pittsburgh.