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Meiners Wants Ballot Vote To Let City Control Water Department

Councilman said having all water issues under one jurisdiction is best for city, Utilities head disagrees

Avon Lake Councilman Larry Meiners said he will consider an effort next year to put an initiative on the ballot to bring under the jurisdiction of the mayor’s office.

Currently, per charter, the utilities office is independent of and operates with a Chief Utilities Executive and a board of directors.

“The person I’d like to see manage this is (City Engineering Manager) Joe Reitz,” Meiners said. He added he will wait until after next Tuesday’s mayoral election to see if the winner would be agreeable to the idea.

Meiners, as well as other city leaders, said the current setup, with the Engineering Department managing stormwater issues and the Utilities handling sanitary water issues, has created confusion with the public when property flooding occurs, as has happened numerous times this year.

“We need this for transparency and being able to run the water problems of the city efficiently,” Meiners said. “You can’t work for more than one boss. Right now, when there’s a water department, who do you call? We need one person who can say, ‘Ok fine, we can handle this.’”

Meiners said the problems of having two different city entities involved with stormwater and sewer maintenance will only be more evident as the city moves toward the 2020 Ohio EPA mandate that all storm and sanitary lines leading to Lake Erie be separated. That project is expected to cost between $30 million and $50 million and will require cooperation between the two entities.

“Up to now it’s worked well, but we’re looking at a minefield for a huge expense,” Meiners said.

Todd Danielson, the chief utilities executive, said he thinks the situation will “quiet down in time.”

“It’s not in the city’s best interest,” Danielson said of Meiners’ proposal. “We operate with a business philosophy. We have a $14 million operating budget and 70 percent of that comes from outside the city.

“I have a personal belief if it’s to be consolidated we would not be able to provide the same level of service and costs to our customers.”

Danielson said the city’s 1951 charter established a separate municipal utilities board and entity for good reason.

“I believe the charter did that so the city could focus on what’s best for the city and the residents,” he said. “It requires a separate government.”

Meiners Fan November 03, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Congratulations Larry - Someone on Council finally had the guts to bring this up! No other Cities around us do this. Privatized water department - subsidized by the City? Todd Danielson says "70% of our 14 million dollar budget comes from outside the City" He doesn't tell you how much of the 30% that comes from our city goes outside. It's a huge scam to have a board of directors running the utilities department. It was set up that way in 1951 because there were about 6 full time employees here and it looked like Maybury. If the Utilities department wants to run like a private business will the city be getting an income tax on that 14 million? Who gets to benefit from those profits now? Our schools? The income from the utilities division should be put in the general fund and disbursed to operations by priority. A manager could run the entire division and be accountable to council. Right now the board of directors is more like a poster board of who's who in organized crime. Send these bums packing Larry, they have become millionaires with the cities money & no one has had the guts to set them straight! Kathleen - it's always refreshing to see that how ever you feel on an issue - Im on the other side - almost like magic. Let me guess - you want to keep it in the hands of the board because they're "job creators" right?
Bethany Stephens November 03, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Way to go Larry Meiners. When I see your picture after reading this article - now it makes me think of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. You like Avon Lakes own "Maverick" Larry - could you post some of the specifics on the issue. The poster above brought some questions to mind. I think people could understand the issue better if they had all the information. 1) Does the utility department get any money from the City? 2) Does the City pay utility employees? 3) Who pays the Utility bills at the Utilities department 4) How much money does the City give the Utilities Department annually? 5) How much money does the Utilities Department give the City annually? Thanks for standing up for the members of your City and tackling the 3000 lb elephant that has been running around the City for 60 years or so!
Todd Danielson November 03, 2011 at 07:31 PM
I hope to clarify what people may not understand. Avon Lake Municipal Utilities was established by the residents of Avon Lake through the City charter to run any City-owned utility. The utility is run like a business in that decisions are based on what is best for the share-holders (i.e., the customers of ALMU). The benefit the share-holders receive is that they have the lowest water and wastewater bill around. The fees ALMU charges pay for all operations (e.g., salaries, utilities, construction...). The one exception is that the City pays $400k/yr to ALMU to help with combined sewer separation projects. This is because the City Council, at the opposition of the Board of Municipal Utilities, decided that the Avon Lake would be served by combined sewers; and now those combined sewers must be separated. Utility revenues cannot subsidize the City budget. However, ALMU works with the City to coordinate pipeline repairs with road improvement projects and pays its fair share of the work. This reduces the cost of road improvements to the City and reduces inconvenience to residents by completing multiple projects at once. Our Board, who is elected by you, meets on the 1st & 3rd Mondays of the month at 7 PM at our office at 201 Miller Road. We are very interested to hear what residents think about our operation because we are here to serve you, our customers. Thank you for providing your comments.
Ed Pelton March 20, 2012 at 06:16 AM
As a professional in the municipal water business, we work with thousands of Ohio and Kentucky municipal authorities. Bethany we've seen the good the bad and the ugly. The ALMU organization is nationally recognized as an elite organization, with numerous awards. The quality and the value of the services provided by ALMU to Avon Lake residents is without equal in OH. Restructuring ALMU under the City Engineering Dept would be a huge and costly mistake! Keep up the good fight Todd, don't let politics and ignorance destroy decades of excellence. Ed Pelton Pelton Environmental Products
Kathleen O'Brien Wilhelm March 20, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Leave the water department alone! It operates effectively and without the burden of government taking the money to put in to the general fund, adding more employees and controlling something that does not need to be controlled. Leave it alone! Just look at Cleveland and Lorain and it is clear the disaster with government in to their water department.

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