By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Debbie Sutherland is taking a wait and see attitude when it comes to possible effects of the city of Westlake considering a switch from the city of Cleveland to Avon Municipal Utilities as a water supplier.
“That’s a long way from being over right now,” Sutherland said. “It’s good that we’re looking into it, but to take any specific action right now would be premature. Until there is a final decision in that, we can’t be demanding action for something that hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen.”
Recent reports from the Cleveland Division of Water were that if the city of Westlake did switch its water service from Cleveland to Avon Lake, the resulting loss of infrastructure and pipes would leave only one current main, or point of contact, for Bay Village to receive water from the Cleveland water department. That main runs under Clague Road in the east end of Bay Village, and officials say it would not be adequate for providing sufficient water to western portions of Bay Village. The Cleveland officials added that they would not leave a customer like the city of Bay Village without adequate means of getting water.
Sutherland said Bay officials have not had any formal discussions of the specific line issue, but said that it plays into the city of Cleveland’s recent notification to Westlake water customers about a possible $291 increase in their water bills if Westlake does indeed leave Cleveland.
“My understanding is that the taking care of problems such as the removal of the Westlake infrastructure and the need to replace it are a part of that,” she said.
Sutherland said that seven of the eight contacts for Bay Village with Cleveland water via Westlake would need replacing.
“We certainly wouldn’t let that kind of problem go, but it hasn’t happened at this point,” she said. “We really can’t ask them to solve a problem that hasn’t happened yet.”
She said it is a separate issue from the Cleveland water department’s efforts several times to get Bay Village and other suburbs to sign agreements that formally give control of the Bay Village lines to Cleveland as well as bring the city into an anti-poaching agreement, which tries to keep Cuyahoga County communities from soliciting businesses to leave one city in the county to come to them. In return, Cleveland becomes responsible for the lines and also makes the smaller city eligible for other infrastructure projects from a fund set up by Cleveland.
Sutherland has advocated signing the agreement and also opposes Bay Village leaving Cleveland for Avon Lake or any other service.
“Cleveland’s recognized as having some of the best water in the world,” she said. “They also have redundancy in their system. If the unthinkable happens and there is an explosion, disaster or terrorist attack, they have multiple ways to continue delivering water to their customers. Avon Lake has two lines which at times already are vulnerable to ice and other issues. We are much better off with Cleveland.”
She noted that Bay Village is seeking information and getting a report put together after council Vice President and finance Chairman Mike Young initiated legislation to get information on any possible effects of Westlake leaving Cleveland for Avon Lake.
Young said the situation with the water mains shows the need for Bay Village to get independent information.
“Cleveland and Westlake both would have to have their own interests in mind when dealing with this,” he said. “That’s why we need a detailed report from an independent engineering company or someone who’s not involved in the other issues. We need someone to give us a clear evaluation of what could happen and what we need to do to take care of our interests in this.”
Sutherland said Bay is taking the best course it can right now.
“Seeking the additional information is good policy,” she said, “but we can’t do anything formal because nothing’s final at this point.”