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More high rates for 20 more years in Liberty

DEAR EDITOR:

How sad that Trumbull County commissioners and Girard officials could not arrive at fair agreements for county water and sewer services provided by the city. This process has carried on for over two years. New contracts will relegate county users to maintenance of the status quo, regardless of what happens locally with regionalization efforts. While the new sewer contract is transparent and fair to both parties, the water agreement was negotiated without county access to any Girard Water Department finances. Public meetings with both parties promised by commissioners regarding these agreements were never held.

Water rates will remain a burden to Liberty water consumers who pay over double the rate of their Valley neighbors and the second highest in the state. County negotiators were threatened that any effort to adjust the terms of the water agreement may result in opening up the terms of the sewer agreement for additional negotiation. In effect, the sewer agreement was held hostage at the expense of the water agreement. These 20-year contracts contain no unilateral opt-out clause. No rate reductions were offered.

The city of Niles distributes its water to city households and charges a distribution cost of $2.49 per thousand gallons. This is typical of several other county municipalities. The city of Girard distributes its water to city households and charges a distribution cost of $7.14 per thousand. For 1,841 Liberty and Weathersfield households, that distribution charge rises to $12.10 per thousand! Why the huge variation? Why are Girard costs so high compared to others? With no access to water records offered to county negotiators we will never know.

In an Oct. 11, 2015, article in The Vindicator, Girard Mayor James Melfi lamented high cost of water borne by Girard city residents and contiguous county residents. “It pains me to charge a surplus to Liberty and Weathersfield. I have no choice from the cost of water to the cost of maintenance. I would like to see water bills reduced or maintained at least at the status quo for everybody I provide water to.” He further suggests, “Why don’t we sit down and talk about regionalization when it comes to water and maybe having more uniform costs?” Unfortunately, these comments were long forgotten during “negotiations.”

These agreements are short-sighted and wasteful. County water and sewer users deserve better. Transparent city management of water and sewer operations and sharing of information between the city, county and Eastgate may help mitigate costs, improve operations and help move forward toward regionalization. Unfortunately for county users, the next 20 years will just be more of the same. Promises, promises, but no real improvement.

STEPHAN STOYAK

Liberty

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