(WKBN) – There were two definites that came out of Thursday evening’s public meeting on the potential sale of the Jackson Milton Water District, according to the people who spoke. First, don’t sell it, and second, if the Mahoning County commissioners do decide to sell, don’t sell it to the city of Youngstown.
One hundred people filled Jackson Township Hall Thursday evening and of the 20 who spoke, every one of them told the Mahoning County commissioners not to sell the Jackson Milton Water District.
“The biggest mistake of your political career could be selling the water district,” said Al Hemphill, a Jackson Township trustee.
“We’re looking at other avenues including the sale of the water system to reduce cost to consumers,” said Tara Cioffi with the Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer’s Office.
Cioffi outlined the issues with keeping the water district, which services 1,300 customers along Mahoning Avenue in Jackson Township, along with most of the homes around Lake Milton.
The water district has $5.5 million in debt and is running an annual deficit of $600,000. If Mahoning County keeps it, water rates are going up.
“It’s estimated the rates would nearly triple to cover costs to operate the system. Your monthly bills could average $98 to $105 per month,” Cioffi said.
“I’m all for if the rates gotta go up so that it’s profitable, you got to make money. Nobody’s asking you guys to lose money,” said Ryan Engelhardt, a business owner.
Commissioners have received proposals to buy the water system from both Aqua Ohio and the city of Youngstown, but many of the people who spoke were vehemently opposed to selling to Youngstown.
“So basically, there’s no trust in the city of Youngstown and concerns that they would over access us like they’ve done in the past,” said Ed Arango, president of the Lake Milton Association.
“Youngstown tried to breach our dam and we wouldn’t have had a lake here, and that is a bad feeling for all of us at Lake Milton,” said Mary Ann Gardner, a Lake Milton resident.
Youngstown water commissioner Harry Johnson was in the audience, listening to the negative comments about the city, but declined to comment after the meeting.
The Mahoning County commissioners also did not comment and gave no indication of when a decision about selling would be made.