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The man charged with piping clean water to 1.5 million people in Northeast Ohio will get a big pay raise to keep him from going to Detroit.
Mayor Jane Campbell has approved boosting Water Commissioner Julius Ciaccia's pay from $97,000 to $123,000, the top wage allowed for a commissioner. Campbell also wants City Council to increase the ceiling so she can raise Ciaccia's pay to $150,000 as soon as possible.
"They started coming after him from Detroit," Campbell said. "I said, 'Ciaccia, you can't leave me.' "
Ciaccia, a Water Department employee since 1977 and commissioner since 1988, said he withdrew his name from consideration for the $200,000-a-year Detroit job partly out of loyalty to Campbell.
"It's an opportunity for me to finish out on a good note with a mayor I like," said Ciaccia, 52, who plans to retire in four years.
"Detroit offered a tremendous challenge, but it comes down to loyalty, and loyalty trumps those other factors."
Detroit has the fourth-largest water system in the United States. Cleveland's, which serves 69 communities in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, ranks eighth. It has 1,100 workers and a $200 million annual budget.
Campbell said the raise is justified because Ciaccia keeps the system running with no major problems. The system was so decrepit when Ciaccia was hired a quarter-century ago that suburban mayors had sued to take control of it. Ciaccia has been credited with turning the system around.
Today he is overseeing a half-billion overhaul of the city's water plants and the installation of a computer system that will map every foot of pipe.
"There's been great stability, strong integrity," Campbell said. "That's the kind of leadership you want with something as important as the water."