Cleveland water customers billed nearly half-million dollars for trinkets over last 3 years

Water department insists spending is 'educational'
Posted at 10:07 PM, Sep 24, 2015
and last updated 2016-12-22 16:41:56-05

Cleveland water customers have been billed nearly a half-million dollars for trinkets ranging from miniature watering cans to toothbrushes over a three-year period.

Ratepayers in 70 communities surrounding Cleveland rely on the Cleveland Water Department for their water and have watched water rates increase 82 percent in Cleveland and 50 percent in the suburbs since 2011.

Meanwhile, a review of water department records reveals water customers are paying for much more than water from nearby Lake Erie.

Records show $445,326 spent on giveaways and sponsorships in just the last three years.

Spending includes:

  • $117,000 in festivals and sponsored events
  • $76,000 for water bottles
  • $17,000 for backpacks, jump ropes
  • $13,000 for hand sanitizers
  • $8,000 for toothbrushes
  • $6,875 for miniature watering cans
  • $3,800 for pastel, ceramic mugs

Check it out for yourself in the documents below:

Cleveland Water Department's Chief of Public Affairs insists the spending is appropriate and necessary in order to educate ratepayers how to use water.

"We do need to educate the public about a variety of programmatic effects and also the reasons to utilize water and how water fits into their everyday lifestyle," says Public Affairs Chief Jason Wood.

Wood says spending hundreds of thousands of dollars enables the water department to "create engagement" with ratepayers.

Even so, Wood concedes the department does not have any analytical measurements such as surveys or research  to determine the effectiveness of its spending.

"We evaluate our event participation internally with our team," said Wood.

While the water department is spending on trinkets, it's billing a 93-year-old customer $2,400 for water he's never used.

Tom Mulcahy is a retired Cleveland firefighter and war veteran who has been living in an assisted living center since last October.

His home is locked up tight and no one is living there.

"It's aggravating," said Mulcahy. "So much money can be spent on non-essentials and trinkets and in the meantime, we're paying a top rate to begin with."

The water department says it will look into Mulcahy's water bill.


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