By Kevin Kelley
A recently released engineering study recommends that the city continue pursuing a switch of water suppliers from the Cleveland Division of Water to Avon Lake Municipal Utilities.
The administration of Mayor Dennis Clough and Westlake City Council have been considering a switch of water suppliers since 2007. Rising water rates, Cleveland’s limited ability to invest in maintenance of the water system and poor service in response to line breaks have been cited as reasons for such a switch.
Council members plan to discuss the details of the study, which was performed by HNTB Ohio, at a committee meeting Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.
The study, which follows up on an early study released in 2008, estimates the construction cost of implementing a supplier switch at $17.7 million. That figure does not include the cost of establishing a new municipal water department or legal costs that might be associated with a switch. But the $17.7 million figure is considerably less than the $33.6 million estimate given in the 2008 study, although the estimates included slightly different factors.
According to the study, approximately 30,000 feet of new transmission mains, ranging from 12-inch to 30-inch pipes, will be required to deliver water from the Avon Lake system. The main transmission pipe would connect to the Avon Lake system along Swartz Road.
A switch of suppliers would also require the construction of a ground storage tank for system equalization and supply of water during periods of high demand.
The switch of suppliers is complicated because Westlake owns all water lines 16 inches in diameter and smaller, while Cleveland Water owns and will continue to control those pipes with diameters of 20 inches and larger. More than 50 disconnections between the two systems would be required if a switch is made.
HNTB Ohio suggests that the city obtain legal advice regarding potential contract liabilities that might be associated with leaving Cleveland Water.
Clough, who has been in favor of making a switch, said the law firm hired by the city to study the matter indicated that Westlake has the right to make a switch.
One benefit to a switch, the study noted, would be an improvement in water pressure throughout the city, particularly in the northern area of Westlake. The study also indicated that the city would enjoy improved fire protection due to the ability of the water system to meet the fire flow demands of more users.
HNTB Ohio also recommends the city conduct an accounting analysis of the recommendations and a comprehensive water rate study.
Westlake City Engineer Bob Kelley told Westlake that, based on engineering factors, he plans to recommend that the city proceed with a switch of suppliers.
Once all the studies and reports are completed, it will take three to five years of construction work to complete the switch, Kelly said.