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Sewer District: Pay New Fee or Water Can Be Shut Off

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On yesterday morning's The Sound of Ideas program, a spokesperson for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District defended that agency's plans to impose a controversial new fee, and warned officials in cities threatening not to pay it that there will be consequences. ideastream intern Nick Castele reports.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm

The fee, set to take effect in October, is to pay for a $230 million plan to fix old pipes, culverts and other structures that contribute to excessive overflow and flooding. Based on the amount of hard surface like roofs and concrete on a property, it will cost residents an average of $57 a year, and could cost some businesses thousands.

Some communities in Summit County have sued, saying the district has no power to enforce the fee. And a number of mayors have told their constituents not to pay it. One of them is Don Kuchta of Macedonia. He says the sewer district does not represent the interests of voters in Summit County.

KUCHTA: "If I tell you that we are telling people to break the law, we are not. We are telling people to protest this, we are telling people that we feel that Summit County is not to be invaded by our neighbors to the north and bullied around."

Kuchta says the fees will chase businesses out of his community.

Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells manages watershed programs for the sewer district. She says the plan - along with the fee - is within the district's authority, and that Summit County communities WILL get their money's worth.

DREYFUSS-WELLS: "They repeatedly make the claim that Summit county quote will be funding projects in Cuyahoga County, and we have also detailed that that is simply incorrect. ­The majority of funding will actually come from the Cuyahoga County communities-and Summit County will benefit significantly from this program."

As for refusing to pay the fee, Dreyfus Wells has an answer to that.

DREYFUSS-WELLS: "If those folks are a customer of Cleveland water, and they do not pay that bill, their water can be shut off and a lien can be placed on the property. We have to follow those enforcement mechanisms."

The next hearing on the issue will be on August 24.