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Cincinnati, County At Odds Over Water Rates

Bill Rinehart
Water rates could climb for some customers of Cincinnati Water Works.

There's a new fight brewing between Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The two governments have battled over control of the Metropolitan Sewer District for years, and the latest argument is from the other end: water.

Specifically, Cincinnati Council is considering a motion to increase Water Works service charges to unincorporated parts of Hamilton County. Under the current contract, those areas pay 1.25 times the base rate. The motion would raise that to 1.43.

Sycamore Township Trustee Tom Weidman told county commissioners the township just wants the same water rate given to municipalities and villages. "The inequitable multiplier they have proposed for the township is arbitrary and capricious and completely unreasonable, and we are looking to this body to work on our behalf to make it fair for all."

A memo from Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney to council says "the recommended rate multiplier ensures that the rate revenue level is adequate to recover ongoing operating costs and capital investment required to update, operate, and maintain existing infrastructure to serve unincorporated areas of Hamilton County."

Anderson Township Trustee Josh Gerth says he's concerned about how that came about. "When you give a multiplier to 34 municipalities and villages, such as Newtown, but yet Anderson Township completely surrounds Newtown, it's a little concerning about how we can pay more than the village."

Delhi Township Trustee Cheryl Sieve says her community is also a pass-through, with water going through Delhi to reach other Cincinnati neighborhoods.

"No one is going to fight a correct and adequate price," she says. "They are going to be very discouraged and unhappy with what appears to be unfair, and frankly, not justified. An explanation is needed and some consistency in what all these rates tend to be."

The city's memo to council says a rate multiplier is common industry practice for customers outside city limits. It says Cleveland charges external customers anywhere from 1.3 to 1.85 times the city rate and that Columbus charges 1.5 times the city rate to unincorporated areas.