Maumee City Council Considers Water And Sewer Rate Hikes And Looks Into Terminating The Current Refuse Contract

BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Following the May 6 meeting of Maumee City Council, there was not much to cheer about for Maumee residents who find themselves living month to month on a tight household budget.

Residents of Maumee could begin to see accelerating rates for their household water and sewer services starting on July 1 if a newly proposed ordinance, first introduced at the May 6 meeting, is passed by city council following the required three readings before the public.

Maumee City Council members listened to the first reading of proposed Ordinance 015-2024 during the May 6 meeting. The second and third readings of the proposed legislation are scheduled to take place during the next two council meetings on May 20 and June 10, before city council members can cast their votes on the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance contains a rate schedule that will call for six consecutive years of gradually escalating fees for water and sewer services, commencing in the second half of 2024 and continuing a steady ascent through the end of 2029.

 

In a letter mailed to Maumee residents this past week, Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald wrote, “Several factors are considered in the proposed water rate increases. Namely, the city of Toledo increased the cost of the water it sells to Maumee. Those new rates, which are passed directly to residents, account for 72 percent of the water rate increases proposed in Maumee.”

The letter goes on to read, “In addition to the higher purchasing costs of water, the cost to operate, maintain and repair our sewer system continues to rise as well. The new sewer rates will cover the increased costs associated with the capital investments that are necessary to maintain the city’s sewer infrastructure systems, especially those systems that are charged with prohibiting untreated sewage from entering the Maumee River.”

“Such capital needs in the sanitary sewer division account for over 40 percent of the sewer budget over the next several years,” the mayor’s letter continues. “Much of the capital costs are due to an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Finding and Orders, which calls for an aggressive schedule and required activities necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act of 1972. This mandated compliance must be completed by 2036.”

New Garbage Deal

It was also revealed during the meeting that the city is planning to begin negotiations on a new residential refuse pickup contract that will likely see Maumee residents shouldering the full burden of those services, with residential billing starting as soon as the fall of 2025.

Presently, the city is paying approximately $800,000 annually to Republic Services for residential refuse service. Those funds are paid from the city’s general fund, which is budgeted to receive approximately 53 percent of its total revenue budget from city income tax revenue, according to Maumee Finance Director Jennifer Harkey.

Other funding sources for the general fund include revenue from property taxes (non-fire/EMS), interest, JEDZ, a hotel tax and various zoning and permitting fees, Harkey told The Mirror.

She added that the total revenue for the general fund is $18,358,000, with income tax providing a total of $9,838,840 of that amount.

A serious decline in the city’s income tax revenue, led by the devastating loss of payroll taxes associated with McLaren St. Luke’s Hospital, will prevent the city from continuing to underwrite the cost of citywide refuse collection services moving forward.

Further details of this development can be found later in this article.

Getting Started

The May 6 meeting opened with Maumee City Council president Gabriel Barrow serving as acting mayor in the place of Mayor MacDonald, who was taking an excused absence.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, council members had the opportunity to comment on items that were going to be discussed during the regular portion of the council meeting.

Council member Philip Leinbach stated that he felt that proposed Ordinance 012-2024, which would enact a non-owner-occupied residential property registry in Maumee, deserved to have three public readings rather than be rushed with an emergency passage. 

“The residential non-owner registry is a fairly significant piece of legislation and I think that our citizenry should have an opportunity to weigh in on it,” said Leinbach, “so, I make a motion that we move that item from New Business to the Consent Calendar as a first reading.”

Council member Ted Kurt seconded the motion. The roll call vote saw Leinbach and Kurt supporting the motion while council members Josh Harris, Jon Fiscus, Margo Puffenberger, Scott Noonan and Barrow voted against it. The motion was defeated by a 5-2 margin.

The regular meeting opened routinely with council member Harris making a motion to adopt the council agenda as submitted. Leinbach, wishing to underscore his earlier point, voted against the motion, while the other six members of council voted in favor of approving the submitted agenda.

The April 15, 2024 city council meeting minutes were then approved unanimously.

Petition and Communications

During the Petition and Communications portion of the meeting, council members unanimously approved the Parks & Recreation Committee minutes from the group’s April 22 meeting. The sole topic of that meeting was the Rolf Park pool policy for the upcoming summer season.

The report stated that Rolf Park pool manager Holly Farthing shared information regarding last year’s memberships. She reported that although the price of memberships went up last year, the overall revenue generated by the pool decreased. Farthing expressed her intent to have the pool open by the Memorial Day weekend, which would allow for 11 weeks of pool access, an increase of two to three weeks over last year’s total.

The committee members also discussed various ideas for properly priced memberships so that there is a cost benefit for purchasing an annual membership as opposed to simply paying daily admission. 

The group also discussed how the new hours of the pool could be more flexible to allow families to be able to access the pool at more convenient times. It was determined that a fee structure would have to be discussed with the finance department and later approved by the committee.

The daily admission fee was addressed briefly, with a $10.00 fee established for city residents and school district members and a $15.00 fee for guests who reside outside of the Maumee City Schools District.

Consent Calendar

Moving on to the Consent Calendar, council members:

• Authorized the mayor or his designee, pending approval of the law director, to enter into agreements to book live musical acts and other related expenditures for the second annual Uptown Maumee Music Fest, scheduled to take place on July 3-4. The event will be staged in the middle of Conant Street and will be highlighted by the annual Independence Day fireworks display over the Maumee River on Wednesday, July 3. The total cost to retain the bands necessary for the festival will not exceed $20,000, according to the departmental report.

• Authorized the closing of Allen Street from the alley of West Dudley Street to the north side of Jacky’s Depot on Friday, May 24 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. to allow for the Maumee Uptown Business Association’s Vegan Take-over special food event.

• Authorized a contract with Helms & Sons Excavating Inc. in the amount of $655,341 to provide milling and resurfacing improvements to Detroit Avenue between River Road and Town Street as part of the Detroit Avenue resurfacing project. 

The project includes implementing a road diet to narrow the roadway and reduce the number of traffic lanes from three to two, while creating a new 10-foot-wide bicycle lane.

Curb ramp upgrades, new pavement markings, signage improvements and streetscape elements are also part of the plan.

“Funding for the project will be provided by a combination of federal safety funds and local matching funds, which were accounted for in the city’s 2024 Capital Budget appropriation,” according to a departmental report from Matthew Miles, the city’s capital projects manager. 

The report went on to say that “the federal safety funds will account for 80 percent of the eligible costs associated with the construction of the transportation project improvements and construction engineering/inspection activities to a maximum of $365,520.”

(Editor’s Note: Details of this project were reported in a front-page article that appeared in the February 8 edition of The Mirror.)

• Declared the Neopost IS-480 mailing system as surplus and authorized the finance director to list it for sale on GovDeals.com. The postage/mailing machine was originally purchased in 2011 and has been replaced with a new model that can manage the increased volume of mailings on behalf of the city.

• Approved the Maumee City Council meeting schedule for the months of June, July and August. City council meetings are normally held on the first and third Mondays of each month; however, during the three summer months, Maumee City Council will meet once a month with meeting dates set for June 10, July 22 and August 19. The change is permitted under Article III, Section 5(a) of the charter of the city of Maumee.

• Witnessed the first reading of Ordinance 015-2024, a proposed ordinance to amend Section XIII regarding utility rates and fees and Ordinance 031-2022, as well as any other related ordinance, and adopting new utility rates and fees that, if passed, will begin on July 1 of this year and will continue increasing annually through the year 2029.

The water and sewer rates are based per thousand gallons of use, but since August 1, 2021, the city has instituted “a readiness to serve capital charge constituting 6,000 gallons per quarter for all single-family residential units.” This means that all households will continue to be billed for a minimum of 6,000 gallons of water and sewer consumption regardless of whether they use that amount.

All items on the Consent Calendar passed unanimously.

New Business

Moving on to the New Business segment of the meeting, council took the following action:

• Approved Resolution 006-2024, which approves the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District’s amended solid waste management plan. The resolution passed as an emergency measure by a 7-0 council vote.

• Approved Resolution 007-2024, designating June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” The holiday recognizes the date of June 19, 1865, as the day in which news of the end of slavery officially reached the slaves in the country’s southwestern states.

Juneteenth Independence Day began as a holiday in the state of Texas and eventually earned status as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

The resolution passed unanimously.

• Approved Resolution 008-2024, authorizing participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) road salt contracts awarded in 2024. With this resolution, the city of Maumee agrees to participate in the ODOT annual road salt bid in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code.

The resolution passed unanimously.

• Approved Ordinance 012-2024, which enacts a non-owner-occupied residential property registry within the city of Maumee. The city contends that “registration of these properties is necessary so the city can determine ownership of these premises in a centralized location in the case of fire or other emergencies; help ensure the maintenance, repair, replacement, improvement and regulation of these properties and that registration is necessary for the health and well-being of occupants of these properties, for adjoining property owners and for all residents of the city of Maumee.”

The 10-page ordinance stipulates that “the registration application fee shall be $20.00 per residential unit every four years for registrations made on time. The cost of any follow-up inspections shall be separately charged fees as established by the city administration.”

The motion for declaring an emergency on passage of the ordinance passed by a 5-2 council vote, with Leinbach and Kurt voting no. The ordinance itself was then passed by a 5-2 vote, with Leinbach and Kurt again voting no. 

• Approved Ordinance 013-2024, an ordinance amending Section XII, regarding fees for water and utility rates contained in the Ordinance 031-2022 rates and fees schedule. The new ordinance updates fees for such things as water tap costs, water meter charges and repairs, storm and sanitary taps, and fines for tampering with equipment.

The ordinance was approved unanimously as an emergency measure.

• Approved Ordinance 014-2024, which amends rates and fees, including Ordinance 031-2022, and adopts rates and fees for vendor and business licenses, registrations, occupancy permits, cemetery burials, EMS services, use of recreational facilities, theater rentals, printing of public records and others.

The 15-page ordinance was passed unanimously as an emergency measure.

• Approved a recommendation from Maumee Law Director Alan Lehenbauer to authorize the mayor and/or city administrator to provide written notice to the Lucas County Solid Waste District of Maumee’s intent to not renew or negotiate the current 10-year contract with Republic Services for residential solid waste and recycling that commenced on October 1, 2016.

Council member Harris stated that he is uncomfortable with the prospects of ending the current contract early. “I agree with what’s going to be done, but I don’t agree with the timing of it. I would prefer that we fulfill the full (existing) contract before we move forward.”

City council member Puffenberger said that one of the reasons for this decision was the financial impact realized by the loss of St. Luke’s Hospital in the community. 

“We now get about $1 million less in income taxes and so there are certain things that we need to do to try to balance our budget,” Puffenberger stated. 

“We would like to give residents ample time to prepare for the possibility of paying for garbage, and we would like to give our town ample time to realize the best contract for residents and try to figure out something that gives people options based on their use, so I think those are good reasons to end (the contract) a little bit earlier than we would have anticipated,” she added.

Maumee city administrator Dr. Patrick Burtch stated that the extra time used for the negotiating process will be necessary for a successful outcome.

“Bidding and doing franchising for garbage operations is not as if you are going out and just quoting for a roof,” he said. “The franchise system has to be set up and then you have set up the billing system, and then you have to go through the process of closed bidding. That takes some time, especially for a citywide contract for garbage and recycling collection.”

“At some point, if council doesn’t do this, you’re looking at a revenue stream that Margo is referring to and also the fact that, when we finally do this, we are not going to have as much time as we think we are going to have to actually process franchising operations,” said Burtch.

“The idea is to leave staff enough time so they can actually pursue that in a proper manner, especially the public bidding of that service,” Burtch added.

City council member Noonan said that while he understands the concerns of council member Harris, “It behooves us to be a little proactive now to try to anticipate a better rate because I think if we wait too long, we may end up with a rate that would be far worse than what we could potentially explore going this early.”

The measure passed by a 6-1 vote, with Harris voting no.

Executive Session

Following statements from city council members and the city administrator, Harris made a motion for council to enter executive session to discuss personnel, contract negotiations and pending litigation.

Council members met in executive session for 21 minutes, but took no official action once they reconvened for the public portion of the meeting at 7:43 p.m. 

One minute later, city council members voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting. 

In Conclusion

The May 6 meeting of Maumee City Council lasted 58 minutes, and 31 people were in attendance. 

The next meeting of Maumee City Council is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. on Monday, May 20 in council chambers at the Maumee Municipal Building, 400 Conant St. 

As always, Maumee City Council meetings are open to the public.

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