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Judge’s Preliminary Injunction Halts Cleveland’s Added Water Fee for Westlake

Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:57 PM

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Photo: Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/40646519@N00/2881872151

A Cuyahoga County common pleas judge has stopped the city of Cleveland from imposing nearly $300 in additional water fees on Westlake residents. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.

Cleveland has had an agreement to supply Westlake with water since 1990. But when Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough indicated he wanted to explore whether he could deal from neighboring Avon Lake—and even asked that city to draft a proposal—Cleveland said Westlake would have to pay to separate.

The cost came out to a $291 fee every quarter for Westlake residents, and more for businesses. A war of letters ensued between the two cities, and they went to court. Last year, Cleveland City Council imposed the fee.

Clough said in an interview with ideastream that he didn’t intend to make a clean break with Cleveland.

“In fact, our ultimate goal would be to have the ability to buy water from Cleveland and Avon Lake,” he said.

Cleveland argued that Westlake had nevertheless taken steps to end its agreement.

Today Judge Michael Astrab granted a preliminary injunction blocking it. Astrab wrote he didn’t hear any evidence that Westlake had actually separated from Cleveland’s water system yet. He questioned why Cleveland levied a fee for something Westlake hadn’t done, but was only considering.

In an emailed statement, Cleveland Director of Law Barbara Langhenry said she disagreed with Astrab’s ruling.

“The cost recovery charge related to the City of Westlake taking steps to leave the Cleveland Water system is a business decision designed to protect our remaining customers,” the statement read. “We are considering all of our available legal options to protect the rate payers in the more than 70 other communities in the Cleveland Water system.”

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