MACEDONIA: City officials are trying to determine whether it’s feasible to dump its water contract with Cleveland and become an Akron customer.
Mayor Don Kuchta said early discussions with Akron indicate it would cost $25 million to extend waterlines to his northern Summit County community of 10,500 people. He hopes Akron would share the cost of such a project because it would mean new revenue for that city.
Also, “a joint project between [Macedonia] and Akron would get a lot of attention” for potential grants, Kuchta said.
He said he also is setting up a meeting with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to “start the ball rolling” in determining what it would cost to cut off Cleveland service.
Macedonia still has four years on its contract with Cleveland, but it probably would take much of that time to prepare infrastructure to switch to Akron, Kuchta said.
Akron Service Director Rick Merolla said the city has plenty of water to share with Macedonia, which would be a “good-size” revenue generator.
Akron would also benefit from economic development in Macedonia because Akron would require a tax-sharing agreement. Akron has a similar agreement in Stow, where both cities split taxes generated by businesses in a designated 1,000-acre development.
“We would need something like that in place,” Merolla said.
There are several reasons Macedonia would benefit by switching water services, Kuchta said.
“First of all, Cleveland has been a problem with service for years,” he said. “When you have a leak in your street and it can take weeks or months to get anyone out there to fix it, that’s a problem.”
The city also has been less than satisfied with the way Cleveland restores streets above repaired lines.
Water rates also could be cheaper, especially if Akron would sell water to Macedonia at a wholesale rate.
As with a similar arrangement in Stow, Macedonia would take over maintenance of its own lines. Because Macedonia would resell the water at a retail rate to its customers, it would make a profit that would pay for the maintenance.
Kuchta said he would like to see his city control its own destiny when it comes to its aging waterlines.
“Maybe it’s time to take repairs in our own hands so we can get things done as it should be and in a timely manner,” the mayor said.
Another motivation, Kuchta said, is that when the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District recently tried to implement a stormwater fee, the district told cities if they didn’t pay the fee, their Cleveland water service could be cut off.
Summit County Council has sued to stop that stormwater fee from being imposed on Macedonia and several other Summit communities, but Kuchta said he didn’t appreciate the threat.
“For someone to threaten us with that means there is something radically wrong with this picture,” he said.
There are a couple of ways Akron could get water to Macedonia. Akron already runs a line to the former Chrysler Stamping Plant property in neighboring Twinsburg, so the city could connect at that point.
That option would cost about $25 million and is the path Akron prefers, Merolla said.
A less preferable option would tie into a line coming through Hudson.
Long term, Kuchta said, he likes the idea of having lines from both Akron and Cleveland coming to his city to “end the monopoly” and give future generations some leverage for negotiating.
“There is a lot to figure out,” Kuchta said. “We’ll collect the information and analyze everything to determine the advantages and disadvantages. ... Every possible factor will be weighed.”
Merolla noted, however, that Akron would require a long-term contract before embarking on such a big project.
“It would have to make sense for us to do it,” he said.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.