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$1,300 Annual Water Surcharge for Westlake Residents Is New News to City

Westlake said news of hefty cost to leave Cleveland Water for Avon Lake is news to them.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo

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 million) 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.  

Susan October 02, 2013 at 01:23 PM
We shouldn't let Cleveland control our interest. The quicker we can separate ourselves from the "them", the better Westlake will be. I just don't know, if Avon lake is the answer.
Joseph Smith October 02, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Chris, We are likely on the same side with this issue. There are some inconsistencies with your argument. 1st, everyone is aware of the benefits of water. 2nd, the most significant issue (outside of cost) is service interruption which has not been a problem with Cleveland. I have lived in Westlake for many decades and water outages do not occur frequently. 3rd, customer service related to Cleveland water is terrible, but is anyone really surprised… probably not. Then we move to cost. Is Avon cheaper with the same reliability? If yes, then what is the cost to make the switch? A simple cost/benefit analysis would determine which route to choose. You are correct that taxpayers (water users) don’t vote on this. Similarly, many homeowners do not get to vote on paying for schools (only increases). Yes, from a housing value standpoint there are benefits, but the majority of the benefits flow to the homeowners with children (of which I am one). You are upset that the city has not explained the costs prior to the “switch”. Many of us are upset that the district is asking for $5.2 million more than the broadly proposed cuts ($2.2m). I fail to see a substantial difference between the two issues.
Chris M. October 02, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Joseph - I agree that a simple cost/benefit analysis would determine which route to choose. Unfortunately, looks like the city's analysis dramatically underestimated cost and probably overestimated the benefits. Who in their right mind would recommend a switch knowing the cost of these surcharges to Westlake residents?
Joseph Smith October 02, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Chris M, it appears that we agree on this issue. I respectfully make the following statement. We likely will not find common ground on Issue 88. You support the levy and I oppose it (at least I do right now). I ask you to join me in requesting that the district disclose exactly where all $7.4 million will be spent. If the district needs to account for the dollars over a multiple year timeframe, that is fine. I don’t understand why anyone would agree to give others their hard-earned money without full disclosure as to how it will be spent. Once all of the information is disclosed, we may agree (either way). We may also continue to disagree. Either way, we will both be in a position to discuss the issue with all the facts. Can we agree on two things today?
LO October 02, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I Sent city of Westlake a email requesting some answers. We shall see. :-)
LO October 02, 2013 at 06:23 PM
I received a letter from Cleveland Water. Just today !!! So I sent an email for answers ......this is ridiculous. On top of all the other taxes proposed. Have people gone crazy ? :-))
helen murphy October 02, 2013 at 07:31 PM
This is crazy. Between the water bill and the proposed school levy if it passes, our monthly expenses would go up dramatically. The only good that would come out of this would be that Clough probably not reelected. It is probably time to clean house at City Hall. Enough of the people of Westlake paying more taxes and fees!
cara_hogan October 03, 2013 at 11:47 AM
I got the letter yesterday too. Reading between the lines it looks to me like the City of Cleveland found an opportunity to stick it to us and intends to gleefully do it. I'm quite sure there's going to be some rapid back-pedaling at City Hall, if not, pitchforks and torches anyone?
Will October 03, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Again, ignorance is bliss. I believe we are all on board with being against this one. However, I support the move. If any one of you had followed this as much as two years ago, you would know that Cleveland was trying to hold Westlake hostage for revenue sharing like they have done with other cities. You would be paying for this for a much longer time. However, Cleveland at this point should not be able to get this through the PUCO because, as they refer to it, it is their "business" in the letter. They are a public chartered agency, and they play by the same rules as everyone else that way. Clough made a good long term call so we were not held hostage and forced into higher income taxes.
Will October 03, 2013 at 01:09 PM
Now, Chris M. I will address your comment that this is not the same as the School Levy. It is in every way a similar answer. Mayor Clough did not know Cleveland would try this. He made a good choice to benefit the people here and keep taxes low, and hold the value of our homes by doing so. Lower taxes = Buy a bigger home? I think you stated that.
Will October 03, 2013 at 01:10 PM
To raise the income tax, there would have been a vote. He made a good decision. That's all there is to it. It is one that would have cost many of the people in the city much more than the cost Cleveland is trying to blackmail from us. At least they are not allowed to annex everyone like Columbus Did, or we would all be screwed and leaving the county.
Will October 03, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Now for you Chris, Clough made a decision which traded costs for the people who live here. Maintaining low income taxes and 100% credit if you work outside of the city, and now a surcharge by Cleveland. The school Board made bad decisions that have no offsetting savings. They are charging us for their failures to budget the construction projects properly, and also their failure to manage the system and negotiate more vigorously with the Teachers Union. They are raising the price without any offsetting savings, and unlike our Mayor they feel entitled to do so. Don't believe for a second that this is different. The city has also taken budget and funding cuts and responded accordingly to handle the costs and commitments they have. The BOE and Keenan blame everyone and everything else except for themselves. They are not responsible for anything right? It is very much alike. The biggest difference is that one made a choice trying to save us all, and in the long run saving the city. He AVOIDED the need to go to the ballot. He avoided the costs of mailing and PR and Lobbying to get it passed.
Will October 03, 2013 at 01:55 PM
He does not run the city based on Entitlements. He bases it equally. He does not as an example have one house with garbage pick up twice a week and another once a week. The other ones run it like a piggy bank, and just ask for more. They could learn a great deal from the mayor in how to run a school district. Don't do things you cant afford and act like you had nothing to do with the shortfall. That's what makes the LEVY DIFFERENT, not the vote, but responsibility and transparency. Openly discussing real numbers. We never should have gotten to this point. Isnt this when you say we have a great deal compared to other cities Chris? We will all be facing a 2k per year increase. The taxes in Westlake will now be more than Bay or RR. People will try to move and sell their homes for 20% less. Good Job BOE. Keep up the good work and the sales pitch. I have some swamp land in Westlake if they want to build there, maybe it would cost what the change orders did for the delays behind Lee Burneson to put a parking lot in. They aren't discussing that either... Our Board and District are run by Thugs and Bullies. Actions my friends speak far louder than empty words.
Jim Jones October 03, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Will, excellent analysis. Jim
Chris M. October 04, 2013 at 07:16 AM
Jim - Will's analysis was not "excellent." It's a rambling, incoherent, rage-filled, borderline insane analysis.
Jim Jones October 04, 2013 at 08:16 AM
Chris, in the first place, I was not saying that the two situations were exactly the same - that should have been obvious... Will had a spin that I had not considered, and I appreciated his insight. He is right. The school levy situation IS worse than the water situation. I had painted the outline, he filled it in. Secondly, I would like to point out to Mr. Maurer and Mr. Rosenbaum that you are a great example of someone who does not post under their own name. You are also a great example illustrating that pro-levy people are disrespectful name callers. It is ironic that you can't see your own rage when you post something like you just did. It does appear a bit hypocritical, no? Thirdly, i had a buddy at the informational meeting last night. I hear it DID NOT got so well for Mr. Keenan. I only wish I had been there. Jim
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:24 AM
Chris, thank you for your insight. Did you read it? I assure you, if I were able to post in paragraph format it would be clear and much simple to read.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:25 AM
I'll try it this way.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:27 AM
If you knew the history of water in Columbus, and kept up on what the choices in Westlake were, you would be, again, informed. From your answer, you are not.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:27 AM
And please forgive any typos, I would not want to distract from the message.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:30 AM
My rage as you phrased it is coherent. Because it's not what you want to hear or the message you want communicated, you have become a levy bully again.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:34 AM
I have never made statements toward you of that tone and nature. I have never said your defense of the Levy was irrational, note have I talked about your rage because people disagree with you.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:35 AM
On that note, if you cannot our will not answer questions, don't complain about people asking them.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:36 AM
Your rage has led you to complain without information or knowledge of what is really going on.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:38 AM
And finally, unfortunately, you are promoting the Levy without all of the information as well.
Will October 04, 2013 at 08:54 AM
And Chris you are right. trying to get people information they don't want to hear the waste of time. at least in this forum. I
Will October 04, 2013 at 09:00 AM
I will make one statement for all voters and especially for the parents to seem to be fighting for the levy. Educate yourselves before making a choice. And please make a decision that is not selfish or short sighted. Your choice today affects your friends and neighbors. At least be informed.
Charles October 05, 2013 at 12:12 AM
So why is Westlake bothering with this? First we are possibly going to be charged by Cleveland for leaving. Second and more importantly why do we want Avon Lake water? People in Avon Lake don't even trust the quality of their water. Look up the issues they suspect with the water leading to higher leukemia and other cancer rates in kids. This has been an issue with their water system for years. We thought about buying in Avon Lake but refused to have anything to do with Lorain county because of all the weird cancer rate issues we were told about from residents there. If I had known Westlake was going to do this I never would have purchased a home here.
Roger October 07, 2013 at 07:52 AM
Chris M, you have got to be one of the dumbest people in Cuyahoga County, if not the state (hell even country). You follow the district blindly, without so much as even a question raised and then have the gall to call someone else insane! The only thing that separates you from the insane is a straitjacket. Anyone and everyone that has had the misfortune of reading or hearing you speak is now dumber for having that experience. Grow-up and start using your peanut-sized brain. No to the levy and No to Chris’s stupidity, gall, and hypocrisy.
LO October 07, 2013 at 11:10 AM
Charles : I agree with you on the water issues. I too would not be living here either. I suspect. If the change transpires , many people will be leaving . As far as tax levy NO ON THE TAX LEVEL NOW OR IN THE FUTURE.

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