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Lorain residents file petition to become charter city in water rate battle

Posted at 9:49 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 23:21:10-04

LORAIN, Ohio — Lorain water customers take another step in the ongoing water and sewer rate battle by submitting more than 1,500 signatures in a preliminary effort to make Lorain a charter city.

Attorney Gerald Phillips submitted the signatures hoping they will be validated in time to make a Sept. 4 deadline to put the Lorain charter city question on the Nov. ballot.

Phillips and some Lorain water customers believe if Lorain is a charter city like Cleveland or Elyria it will give residents a stronger voice in who is selected to lead city departments and help to reduce water rates.

“With a charter city you can customize your charter to deal with specific issues, in dealing with that specific locality,” Phillips said.

“They could provide more accountability on the utilities, they can set-up a management board like Avon Lake, they can have requirements that the rates have to be voted on by the people.”

"Charter cities give residents more of a voice on who leads city departments. With statutory cities like Lorain, state law has no qualification requirements, no expertise, no educational requirements to require that person to run it, and it tends to be a political appointee.”

Phillips said if the signatures are validated, and residents approve a charter city on the Nov. ballot by a simple majority, the next step would be to vote for a 15 member commission.

Jessica Higgins, a Lorain mother of four, believes if Lorain becomes a charter city it will make residents a bigger part of the process in helping to decide how the city operates.

Higgins said high water and sewer rates have forced her and her family to make tough budget decisions over the past several months.

“It’s been really tough, I mean with four kids and then a $1,200 water bill, and then trying to catch up. Especially now with all the COVID stuff, and everybody is laid-off from work,” Higgins said.

It’s really hard, my husband’s job, got his hours cut, my hours got cut.”

“And seeing the other surrounding cities, when they only have a $30 water bill out there and ours goes up to $300 a month, that’s insane.”

"A charter city will be better because the citizens of Lorain will have a say in where money gets to be spent.”

Over the past year, Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley and the city council have worked to roll back water and sewer fixed costs and wastewater expenses to 2017 levels.

Bradley said he's hoping an Auditor of State report will be available by December after he asked for a study of water delivery efficiency, water meter accuracy, and staffing levels earlier in the year.

Lorain City Council is considering a special vote on becoming a charter city on Sept. 3.