Changes in the works for your water

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Cincinnati city leaders want to expand the current water service. Some say it's the only way to keep rates low, but critics say it's just the opposite.

Leaders held a public meeting on Wednesday night to give city workers and residents their only chance to voice their opinions.

The plan affect hundreds of thousands of people. The change could mean the city would no longer run the Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW). The new regional system would be run by a board of local citizens and experts. Right now, folks on both sides of the issue disagree on what that could mean for your water bill.

Hundreds of locals packed the Cintas Center to give their two cents on the proposed plan.

GCWW wants to switch from a city-managed system to a public regional water district. That includes expanding beyond current city borders to new ones to include new customers.

"We cannot grow anymore if we stay as a city department because we're limited by state law," said Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney. "In order for us to continue to grow as a public works water utility we have to take this step."

It's a step economists at the University of Cincinnati estimate could lead to millions in economic activity plus 300 new jobs a year.

"If they go to a regional district, then the city will receive, on average, $15 million a year for 75 years," said George Vredeveld, director of the UC Economics Center for Education and Research.

But opponents said the plan will only destabilize the city retirement system, negatively affect service, and cost residents more money in the long-term.

"They're basing it based on faulty assumptions and allegations that other groups are going to join in and the customer base will expand," said Peter McLinden, AFSCME Regional Director. "But nothing in the study shows that any new customer growth. That any new efficiencies will be developed by this.

Court is the next step in the process. If a court approves the proposed plan, it'll head back to the voters for consideration.

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