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Water Works: Price hike is just asking townships to pay their share

Posted at 11:17 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 23:17:33-04

CINCINNATI -- On Tuesday, former Greater Cincinnati Water Works director David Rager looked at the agency's claims that a price increase for some customers was unavoidable and asked: "Where is the data to support that?"

His successor, Cathy Bailey, provided some Thursday. Asking township residents to pay 18 percent more for water service is a matter of fairness to people who live in Cincinnati proper, she argued Thursday in a city memo. 

The proposed bump in water prices -- people who live in unincorporated Hamilton County communities would have their rate multiplier hiked from 1.25 to 1.43 times Cincinnati prices -- has become a point of contention among the city, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and the residents whose wallets would feel the pinch.

"It's something that we, the board, think is unfair and inequitable," Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said shortly after Water Works proposed the change.

However, according to Bailey, "if the rate multiplier is not increased, City residents will continue to pay a disproportionate share" to compensate for the cost of treating and transporting water to outlying townships as well as maintaining the extensive infrastructure that comprises the water system. 

Included in the memo was a chart mapping the changes in unincorporated communities' water rates since 1955 -- 1.25 is as low as they've ever been -- and an FAQ in which Bailey repeatedly brought up the fact that "commissioners had more than six yeas, from June 2004 to December 2010," to agree to an extension of the county's contract at the 1.25 multiplier.

She also personally called out Rager, who intimated at the Tuesday meeting of the county board of commissioners that the hike could be politically rather than financially motivated.

"During the Water Task Force discussions (that determined the rate increase), the city an county task force representatives, including Hamilton County consultant David E. Rager, unanimously agreed to use standard methodologies when setting rates," she wrote.

According to Bailey, that's what the hike would be: A standard adjustment based on standard methodology. It's even quite low compared to the rates charged by other Ohio city water services to outlying areas. 

Cincinnati City Council, which can vote to approve or disapprove Water Works' proposed ordinance, will make the final decision about whether or not the increase is reasonable.

You can read Bailey's full memo below:

REVISED City of Cincinnati Memo About Water Service Contracts by WCPO Web Team on Scribd