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Government and Politics

Westlake still wants out of Cleveland Water Dept.
Suburb cites poor customer service, even as Cleveland touts improvements

Kabir Bhatia
In The Region:
Cleveland’s water department says it's improving service, but one of its biggest customers says that's too little, too late. WKSU's Kabir Bhatia reports.
Westlake still wants out of Cleveland Water Dept.

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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is touting his water department's improved customer service – which had an abysmal record as recently three years ago. He’s also pushing a plan to freeze rates from 2016 through 2020. The department supplies water to 1.5 million people in 70 communities.

But one of those communities, Westlake, cites poor billing procedures and outdated infrastructure as two reasons it wants to switch to Avon Lake's water system. It’s been operating on a year-to-year contract with Cleveland for at least 13 years. 

Westlake makes up $6 million of Cleveland water revenue, and the utility is challenging the break away on legal and engineering grounds. Both sides want a judge to interpret what the contract means. Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough says one point of contention is whether his city should pay Cleveland back for improvements made in the past 22 years.

“Nowhere in the contract do we see any requirement that there would be any additional cost associated with us deciding to purchase our water from somewhere else. We’d be happy to continue buying our water from the City of Cleveland as well. We’ve never advocated completely leaving Cleveland. We just wanted to be able to purchase the bulk of our water from Avon Lake.”

Cleveland has increased water rates for 18 of the past 19 years, but it plans to unveil a new website and upgrade water lines in the next few years ahead of the proposed rate freeze.
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