considers changing water supplier
By Kevin Kelley
Published May 2, 2007
something we use everyday. In fact, it’s vitally important to human
life. It makes up 65 percent of our bodies.
We’re talking about water.
Westlake officials are seriously considering switching
water suppliers from Cleveland’s Division of Water to Avon Lake
At an April 25 meeting of council’s safety and utilities
committee, officials of Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based engineering
firm, said such a switch was feasible.
“Based on our preliminary analysis, it appears that
if the city of Westlake purchased its water from Avon Lake instead
of Cleveland, replaced its water meter population and installed
an automatic meter reading system, the financial gains would outweigh
the initial cost,” the Johnson Controls report concluded.
In fact, the report said additional water sales, together
with savings over current rates, would produce $13 to 33 million
in additional money over the next 10 years.
“These funds would be available for the city to use
for improvements, maintenance and the operation of its water department,”
the report stated.
Johnson Controls officials said a switch would require
construction of a main water line to two of Avon Lake Water’s transmission
lines located in North Ridgeville. About 11,000 water meters in
Westlake residences and businesses would also have to be replaced.
Westlake residents would not notice any differences
in water pressure, Johnson Controls officials concluded.
The Johnson Controls report, which was done at no
cost, stated that Westlake would need to determine the necessary
legal and financial steps to serve the community’s water needs internally.
Noting the Johnson Controls report was only a preliminary
study, Mayor Dennis Clough said no switch would occur within the
next 18 months to two years, if at all. Westlake would need to hire
an engineering firm to study specific elements of the city’s water
system, the mayor said.
Nonetheless, he said a switch was a possibility.
“There are some very strong benefits to consider switching
to Avon Lake,” the mayor told West Life.
Clough said he was skeptical about aspects of a new
agreement Cleveland Water is asking all of its suburban customers
to sign. In the first part of the agreement, the suburbs would turn
ownership of their smaller water pipes over to Cleveland Water.
In exchange, Cleveland Water would devote more resources to maintaining
and replacing those pipes.
In the second part of the proposed 20-year agreement,
Cleveland and each suburb would agree not to poach businesses from
each other. Both cities would agree to split income taxes for five
years when a firm moves from one city to the other. Real estate
tax abatement offered by a city hosting the relocating firm would
also be limited to 75 percent for a period not greater than 10 years.
Income tax abatements would be banned for relocating companies between
the two cities. These restrictions would go into effect if the relocating
company had a payroll of $500,000 or more.
Clough said he has doubts about how much money Cleveland
Water would invest in Westlake when other suburbs would be competing
for the same infrastructure dollars.
The Johnson Controls report said the cost to Westlake
of switching to Avon Lake water would be about $9 million, a figure
that does not include establishing a city water department.
But Cleveland Water Commissioner J. Christopher Nielson,
who attended the same council committee meeting, said Westlake would
have to invest $39 million to change water suppliers. The city would
also have to make 29 new pipe connections, install six miles of
water lines at a cost of more than $5 million, and build a new water
tower, Nielson said.
Cleveland Water is a full-service utility that, as
a member of the Partnership For Safe Water, provides drinking water
that exceeds safety standards by a factor of 10, Nielson said.
Cleveland Water can provide redundancy of service
that no other supplier can, Nielson added.
Nielson also said Cleveland Water is in overall agreement
with Westlake’s capital improvement plans for its water lines. He
indicated Cleveland Water intends to invest in the suburb’s infrastructure.
(In general, Cleveland Water owns pipes with a diameter
greater than 20 inches. Westlake owns pipes with a diameter of less
than 20 inches. Clough said the Westlake-owned pipes consist of
about 90 percent of those in the city.)
Committee chairman and Ward 4 Councilman Michael O’Donnell
suggested some of Westlake’s neighbors might also consider secession
from Cleveland Water. He noted that officials from Bay Village,
North Olmsted and Olmsted Falls were in attendance at the two-hour,
Contacted later, North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O’Grady
acknowledged his city is considering the matter.
“We’ve had discussions with Westlake about this,”
O’Grady said. “We’re keeping our options open. That why service
director (Duane) Limpert attended the meeting.”
When asked if other Westshore cities might consider
joining Westlake in considering a switch to Avon Lake Water, Clough
replied, “That’s up to them.
“I know there’s interest from other cities, but I’m
trying to do what’s best for Westlake.”
(Jeff Gallatin contributed to this story.)