The City of Cleveland says it’s in its rights to bill Westlake residents nearly $300 more on their quarterly water bills for five years. Westlake officials are outraged, and say it’s retaliation for their decision to break their water relationship. ideastream’s Brian Bull reports:
Westlake officials say their decision to start their own water system, purchasing water wholesale from nearby Avon will save residents money.
The City of Cleveland agrees Westlake has the right to leave, but they say they have a contractual right to impose the rate increase.
Paul Bender, Cleveland’s Director of Utilities, says that comes to $60 million dollars to help cover costs:
“The operating costs, we have maintenance crews out on the street every day. That’s about $40 million," says Bender. "And about $20 million of the 60 is additional capital investment we would need to make, to change the piping, there’s 65 points of connection right now into Westlake. Plus you have the Crown water treatment plant within Westlake.”
But Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough says there’s no provision in the contract that gives Cleveland any standing to impose the increase.
“Any time a city or county issues debt, they have to have a stream of revenue to pay that debt off…they include that in their rate," says Clough. "And we happen to be one of their best customers. I think we’re their fifth largest customer. So we’ve been paying the costs as projected in the rate, to pay any debt that the city of Cleveland ever incurs.”
Clough says a county common pleas judge was asked to make a declaratory judgment on Westlake’s obligations last year, but the City of Cleveland wouldn’t wait before threatening his residents with the increased rates.
Clough says he’s open to sitting down and talking the matter out.