If Westlake opts to follow through with changing its water supplier from Cleveland to Avon Lake, Westlake’s residents could be slapped with a hefty surcharge.
Mayor Dennis Clough has been pushing for a change for several years.
The city of Cleveland, however, said on Monday that if Westlake
goes through, it will take measures to recuperate $39.8 billion it is saying it
spent in costs to improve service to Westlake.
Westlake Finance Director Prashant Shah said Cleveland’s discussions at their City Council meeting Sept. 30 were a total surprise.
“We had no prior notification of what they were proposing,” Shah said on Sept. 1. “We haven’t had any correspondence with them.”
He expects the city will discuss the motion.
Shah said the city expected some cost to be associated with their possibly leaving and have asked Cleveland officials to quantify a potential cost.
“We haven’t received a single spreadsheet,” he said, noting the only information received was from the article online at Cleveland.com.
“I’m not sure where they get that ($39.8 billion) number from.”
Shah said when there is a problem with a water line in Westlake, such as a break, the city of Westlake is responsible for repairs.
According to Cleveland.com, should Westlake leave the Cleveland water system, neighboring communities including Bay Village, North Olmsted and Rocky River would be affected and Westlake disconnecting would mean another $19 million in costs to the city of Cleveland.
Shah had no information on what the breakdown cost to Westlake households would be, saying the only number he saw was the $291 per quarter (1,300 annually) for five years cited on Cleveland.com.
“We don’t know what number they are talking about,” he said.
Asked if the measure that Cleveland was trying to force Westlake to remain in the Cleveland water system, Shah said, “That’s one of the theories.”
He doubted Westlake would sit by idly.
“We can’t sit on the sidelines,” Shah said. “I’m sure our law director and attorneys will get involved.”
Westlake City Council voted in November of 2011 to allow Mayor Dennis Clough to begin negotiations with Avon Lake, and to hire a consulting firm to create a plan for design and construction.
Consultants at the firm HTNB began the first feasibility study for the switch back in 2007. The study recommended that Westlake pursue the change in suppliers, noting that it would improve water pressure, create a new revenue stream for the city, provide lower rates to residents, and give the city control over infrastructure repairs and customer service.
Avon Lake Municipal Utilities currently serves more than 200,000 residents in seven counties.