Warren, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit alleging Trumbull County owes up to $3 million in unpaid sewer bills
According to Edward Haller, director of the Warren Water Pollution Control Department, some debts are more than a year old. The bills are for water treated from residents and businesses in the Lordstown and Champion areas. The negotiations between the city and country have been going on for about a year, according to the Tribune Chronicle.
More than $600,000 of the $3 million is for money owed under a sewer agreement between the county and Warren. The agreement expired Dec. 31, 2017. According to the Tribune Chronicle, Trumbull County has been required to pay use fees set under the city’s ordinances.
The county has only paid the amount it was paying under the expired agreement, according to city officials. This is one-fourth of what is required by city ordinance and less than a third of what residents pay.
According to the Tribune Chronicle, inside-rate customers pay $4.65 per 1,000 gal. The county was paying $1.42 per 1,000 gal under the expired contract. However, according to city officials, they were charging Lordstown and Champion customers $6.66 per 1,000 gal.
The county proposed paying the inside rate Warren residents pay for the service, according to the Tribune Chronicle. However, the city wants more assurance it will improve sanitary sewers so the treatment plan is not flooded with rainwater.
According to County Commissioner Dan Polivka, negotiating teams tried all options to avoid litigation.
“They wanted us to pay the inside rate,” Polivka said the Tribune Chronicle. “We offered that, which came out to an extra $1 million.”
According to Polivka, the county has offered $150,000 to $200,000 to improve lines to reduce stormwater infiltrating the system.
“I was hopeful we could resolve a win-win for both the county and the city and stay out of court,” Polivka said to the tribune. “In negotiations, both sides have to give some. We did, to no avail from the city.”
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin was disappointed the negotiations did not end in a settlement.
“It is truly unfortunate that the city has been forced to take this step,” Franklin said to the Tribune Chronicle. “The county has steadfastly refused to voluntarily pay anything close to the same rate we charge our own residents, or to commit to take meaningful steps to reduce the tremendous amount of stormwater and groundwater that enters county sewers, which we then have to treat.”