County should consider suit over water

While the city of Girard tries again to resolve the problem with low water pressure to customers in Liberty, township trustees and Trumbull County commissioners should delve into the possibility of suing for breach of contract.

It might be time for Liberty to purchase water from somebody other than Girard.

Girard City Council approved legislation for a water line improvement project that is supposed to improve water pressure for residents and businesses surrounding the Belmont Avenue corridor in Liberty.

The issue of low water pressure came to a head recently when Belmont Avenue businesses including Hampton Inn and Belmont Pines Hospital were hit with unacceptably low pressure. According to Township Administrator Patrick Ungaro, the Hampton Inn was forced to reimburse guests and make accommodations for them at other area hotels.

Trumbull County can ill-afford the chilling effect this costly inconvenience has on businesses considering locating here.

We’ve been down this road before.

In 2011, the city was failing to deliver adequate water pressure to residential neighborhoods in Liberty. About 1,000 Liberty residents were unhappy with the drinking water they receive from Girard. The city admitted the water pressure was sometimes low or non-existent. It took years to improve.

Trumbull County should consider filing a breach of contract against Girard for not fulfilling the terms of its contract to supply water to parts of Liberty. Successfully proving a breach would free the county to contract with Niles or Youngstown to supply water customers in those parts of the township. The cost could be less since this would bypass Girard’s surcharge (Girard buys the water from Niles) and the service could be reliable for the first time in years.

Liberty itself cannot sue Girard. It would rely on Trumbull County commissioners who actually signed the contract for Girard to provide water to the townships. If commissioners oppose filing for a breech, it would fall on the trustees to file against the commissioners.

Girard is supposed to supply water. When there is little or no water pressure – so little that the residents sometimes cannot shower – the city is not providing water. In other words, it’s violating the terms of the contract.