Ravenna signs off on water compact

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Ravenna will join Portage County in the sale of treated water to the Rootstown Water Service Company, which distributes water it purchases throughout the township. Ravenna will provide at least 36 million gallons annually, or 100,000 gallons daily. The arrangement will regenerate a portion of the nearly $2 million lost each year after Rootstown severed a similar contract with the city in 1984, opting for county services.

Though Jones described the new pact _ adopted by City Council Tuesday _ as "historic," Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Chandler was less enamored.

"Our concern is that, with two sources supplying water, it may not be clear which is liable should contamination appear," she said. "What sort of provisions have been made in anticipation of this possibility?"

"We don't want to get into a war over water," Jones said, "but this contract is simply a wise business decision for the city. I understand how the county feels; we felt the same way in 1984 when Rootstown decided to contract with the county."

If the city pursues such contracts, Jones said Ravenna residents should realize lower water rates, adding that, if successful, such pursuits would reduce the likelihood the city raises its water rates for residents.

"I can appreciate your comments and am fully aware this is a business enterprise," Chandler said at the council meeting. "However, the issue is not whether Ravenna should sell water, but rather (if it can) protect the water system. In the past, the city or the county have been exclusive providers to Rootstown; there was never a doubt as to who would be responsible were water contaminated. Have you addressed the concern I've raised?"

The county supplies roughly 500,000 gallons of water to Rootstown Water each day, according to Chandler. As a result of the city's new contract, however, this figure will diminish to 400,000, a reduction that will cost the county about $51,000 annually, Chandler said.

Carl Ganocy, the city's utility director, dismissed the commissioner's concern as "a non-issue" for several reasons. First, it is "highly unlikely" that contamination would arise when both the city and county water services are EPA approved and, should contamination arise, its source could be easily pinpointed, he said.

Secondly, the Delphi Packard Electric plant (formerly the Flintcote plant) off Prospect Street will consume for industrial use most of the water Ravenna contributes. The plant uses roughly 100,000 gallons daily, a volume about equal to what the city will furnish, Ganocy said.

Thirdly, Rootstown assumes all liability for the water after purchasing it, Ganocy said.

"We don't anticipate any problems, but should any arise, we would assist the township every way we could," he said.

"It puzzles me that the county would raise this concern now," he added. "It certainly wasn't raised a couple of months ago when the county wanted to purchase our water and resell it (to Rootstown Water) after marking it up."

Early this summer, Harold Huff, director of the Portage County Water Resources Department, discussed purchasing city water for roughly $2 per 1,000 cubic feet. The county would then sell it to Rootstown for more than $11, Ganocy said.

Huff, however, said the discussion was informal and that "the county was simply trying to find the most cost-effective way to provide additional water to Rootstown." He said that the price the county might pay was "significantly less than $10.50," the price Ravenna is charging Rootstown per 7,500 gallons.

Rootstown Water is entering the contract as a precautionary measure, said company president William Pletzer. The company presently consumes between 80 and 92 percent of the output from the county's Brimfield wells, he said.

"This is just a wise business decision," he said. "It will help ensure that we are able to provide water to our customers should county wells run dry.

"This is a new beginning for Rootstown and Ravenna," he added. "Rootstown is growing. We are happy to have (an) additional source of water."

The contract will likely be signed today and will last through 2007. The water will be issued from a booster pump station at the Crystal Lake Water Plant off S.R. 44. The cost to install the booster station is about $8,000, a sum the respective municipalities will share equally, Jones said.During the pact's first three years, Rootstown will pay $10.50 per 7,500 gallons; rates beyond then will be based on the cost of operating, maintaining and financing the city's water treatment plant, Jones said. Income earned from the sale will help retire debt on the plant.

Because the city taps surface rather than well water, it could become a power broker with respect to water sales, Jones said previously.

"Somewhere down the line, the city will be in a real power position because, unlike well water, our reserves are plentiful and secure," he said.

The city's plant presently pumps 2 million gallons daily and can

accommodate three times that volume, Jones said.

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