Brookfield trustees recently met with officials from Hubbard city and township, Vienna Township and Aqua Ohio to talk about expanding water service in their communities, and whether Aqua would have any interest in helping them and possibly taking over at least part of the Trumbull County water system.
Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees outlined several reasons for wanting to change and/or expand water service in the township:
- Brookfield has two water systems that serve the township, Aqua and the county, meaning residents in the same township pay different rates for water service. “I don’t think that’s fair. That’s been a problem and a question that residents have asked me ever since I’ve been a trustee. I think it’s time to approach this.”
- Distrust of Niles, which provides water to Trumbull County and has sought to annex land from areas of townships where it provides water service.
- The quality of water provided by Aqua is perceived to be better than that provided by Trumbull County.
- Lack of city water service in key parts of the township, particularly along Route 7 between Hubbard and Yankee Lake, has hindered business and residential development.
Tony Mancari, Aqua Ohio’s director of municipal services, said during the July 21 Zoom meeting that the company is interested in working with the municipalities to meet the goals Lees outlined, including buying all or part of Trumbull County’s water system.
“There’s strength in numbers, as far as sharing the cost for infrastructure investment, being able to leverage the best price for either purchased water or even, if you had to, construct your own water source,” Mancari said.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency supports regionalization efforts and reducing the number of small water systems in Ohio, and makes funding available for such efforts, even to private companies, he said.
Vienna Trustee Phil Pegg said his township “wants out from under Niles,” for reasons that go beyond Niles providing the water that Trumbull County pumps to Vienna.
“We want Aqua water back,” he said, noting that Aqua Ohio used to provide water to Vienna. “In the first five years, I went through three hot water tanks. We’re willing to pay a little more, we talked with the residents, for good water. Shenango (Aqua) water was good water.”
While Pegg and Hubbard Township Trustee Fred Hanley said county officials have a history of not being receptive to discussions concerning water service, Commissioner Frank Fuda said July 28, “I’ll meet with anybody who wants to meet. If they have something better to offer, that’s what are our jobs as commissioners. As commissioners, we have to look at the entire picture and we have to make decisions that are best for the citizens.”
Fuda said he thought concerns about Niles annexation efforts were overblown – “I don’t think they can do it, to be honest with you, because of the fact that many of the lines are owned by the county,” he said – and that he has heard no complaints about water quality since the county undertook improvements some years ago.
Township officials said they prefer to approach county officials rather than have Aqua make the first move – something Mancari offered to do – and that now would be a good time because of the upcoming election and expected budget issues at the county level.
“If we approach this from a regional standpoint and approach the county, I think we might receive more cooperation,” Brookfield Trustee Ron Haun said.
Fuda said on July 28 that no one had approached him concerning water service.
From a practical standpoint, there are some big hurdles to overcome to make anything happen, Hanley said, but it is up to local officials to try to position their jurisdictions for economic development.
“This is probably gonna hit them (Niles) pretty hard,” he said. “I believe, my personal opinion is, they sway a lot of influence, like Ron said, with the county commissioners. With that being said, do we just have to sit here and take it? No. There’s gotta be a better way to accomplish this for our residents. We can’t sit here and wait anymore, because nothing is happening. Nothing.”