Wait Continues As Water Rate Debate Nears Deadline

Aug 21, 2018

Hamilton County commissioners say they'll continue to press Cincinnati leaders to relent on a plan to increase water rates for certain county communities, townships and unincorporated areas.

The city plans to increase rates for some users from 1.25 times the rate Cincinnati residents pay to 1.43 times that amount. Township leaders balked at this notion and county commissioners agreed with them. Townships say their residents should get the same rate as everyone else.

A contractually obligated task force was created as the current water contract approached its conclusion. Cincinnati and Hamilton County each appointed three members. However, the county says the task force wasn't allowed to complete its work before City Council approved a plan to increase rates.

The board asked former Water Works Director David Rager to help dissect the issue Tuesday. He indicated the task force had been given incorrect or incomplete information, and asserted some of the council's decisions may be based on incorrect comparisons such as location rather than capacity.

Commissioners want the task force to be allowed to finish its work. The three-member board agreed they want to talk with council members about why they feel raising the rates is inappropriate. Board President Todd Portune also wants the county administration to determine the county's rights under the contract in case further action is warranted in the county's eyes.

"The deadline is at the end of the month, so something has to happen here," points out Commissioner Denise Driehaus. "If the (city) manager were to extend for six months the (current rate situation), allow the task force to get back together and start to negotiate, then after those recommendations come out, that would be in line with the ordinance that they have passed. (Council) needs to give some direction to the city manager to do just that."