LORAIN, Ohio — Lorain water customers reached a boiling point and told members of city council that serious adjustments in water and sewer rates are desperately needed for thousands of homeowners and renters.
Residents told lawmakers that monthly water bills of more than $200 a month are causing more and more people to lose their homes and they are unable to afford the growing costs.
Victoria Kempton told News 5 her Facebook group, Lorain Citizens for Fair Water and Sewer Bills, has grown to more than 4,000 members.
Hundreds of Lorain water customers are sharing their stories of financial distress and comments demanding change.
“This is a water bill crisis, we’re in crisis mode,” Kempton said.
“People are having their water shut-off and people are having it shut-of for six, maybe 10 weeks at a time.”
“This is contributing to abandonment and a loss of home ownership, and no one wants to invest in Lorain.”
Kempton pointed to the Lorain "ready serve fee" of $21 a month as a key part of the high water rates.
She said the fee was less than a dollar a month 10 years ago.
“If we could see that reduced at $21 a month for residents, we would feel some relief.”
Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley responded to water and sewer rate complaints and decided to freeze water rates.
Lorain City Council voted to freeze sewer rates for 90 days, as the city conducts its own study into the water system, in attempt to see if water and sewer rates can be rolled back.
Safety/Service Director Max Upton told News 5 the city understands water customers are facing a financial burden.
“We understand the impact that this has on the ability to pay rents, the ability to buy groceries, the ability to get your prescription medications,” Upton said.
"When we conduct our study, we'll be transparent and say this is what we found, this is what we want to do and this is the way we want to move forward."
"Ultimately the goal is to save our citizens and our ratepayers money.”
But Lorain sewer customers living in the Amherst Trail neighborhood say rates are so high, the communities 178 homeowners are now continuing to consider filing a lawsuit against the city.
Resident Tia Hilton told News 5 city leaders have been unwilling to work with her community.
“You know they’re getting payday loans to pay these bills and all I’ve done is ask question, why isn't the consumption matching each bill,” Hilton said.
“I may not fight them tonight, but I’m going to fight them in court.''