Apr 21, 2022
WARREN – Trumbull County Commissioners are expected to hear a presentation from Aqua Ohio Inc. at 1 p.m. today about the company’s proposal to purchase the county’s Southeast Public Water System, which supplies water to all or parts of Brookfield, Vienna and Hubbard Township, for $8 million.
The meeting comes after weeks of debate about whether the commissioners should entertain the idea of selling the water infrastructure as presented in a written proposal that was sent to the commissioners on March 14.
“Anyone can make a presentation to the commissioners,” Trumbull County Commission President Frank Fuda said. “Aqua Ohio President Robert Davis asked if the company could make a presentation, and I arranged it to happen.”
Commissioner Niki Frenchko in each of the last two weeks presented resolutions that the county is not interested in selling the water system. She did not get a second from either Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa or from Fuda during Wednesday’s meeting.
Cantalamessa argues the commissioners must do their due diligence and hear what the company has to offer.
âWhat if they present a package that would be difficult to dismiss from both a financial and a services perspective.” Cantalamessa said. “We have a responsibility to our rate payers to hear what the company has to say.”
The issue of whether Aqua Ohio should have an opportunity to bid on taking control of the southeast water district soon deteriorated into an argument about who started the initial discussions.
Fuda argues former Sanitary Engineer Randy Smith attempted to have him talk to Aqua Ohio representatives during a Christmas party approximately four years ago.
“I told them I don’t have meeting in bars,” Fuda said.
Sometime later, Fuda suggested Smith organized a meeting in Vienna that included trustees from Brookfield, Hubbard and Vienna, as well as member of Aqua Ohio. Smith on Wednesday stated he did not arrange meetings with the commissioner either at Avalon Inn or at Vienna’s township hall.
âI was at the Christmas party that was attended by many people, including other county employees, politicians and Aqua Ohio employees. The Aqua Ohio representatives saw Commissioner Fuda and asked if they could talk to him, so I introduced them.”
Smith described later being invited to the meeting in Vienna that was sponsored by the township officials. Smith could not remember whether he invited Fuda or if the commissioner was invited by one of the trustees to attend the meeting.
“It does not matter; Frank attended the meeting,” Smith said. âI am not going to allow Mr. Fuda to rewrite history.”
Smith, Trumbull county’s engineer, will not attend today’s meeting. He no longer is the sanitary engineer and has no input on whether the district should remain with MVSD or be operated by another company.
Stephen Papalas, an administrative assistant in the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, during Wednesday’s commissioner meeting emphasized Smith had been invited to two or three meetings held by the township trustees about the water service. Fuda was at one of those meetings.
âAt that meeting, you asked, more than once, if Smith wanted to sell the water system to Aqua Ohio,” Papalas said. “Each time, it was clearly explained to you by Smith that he was simply an invitee to the meeting, that he did not initiate the event.”
Papalas noted Fuda has been told at least five times that Smith did not initiate the meetings.
Fuda said Papalas would not know what occurred at either of the instances because he was not there to witness what happened.
Vienna Trustee Phil Pegg said it was the trustees that had been discussing moving from under the contract that has allowed Mahoning Valley Sanitary District and Niles to provide water for the southeast district.
The periodic discussions began shortly after the southeast water district was placed under the MVSD contract in 2008, according to Pegg. From his perspective, the quality of the water has not been the same as it was when the communities previously were served by Aqua.
Pegg has a 2008 letter that discussed working with Aqua as early as 2002.
“Mr. Smith did not organize the meetings,” Pegg said.
Pegg emphasized on Wednesday the township trustees are not making recommendations whether the county should sell the infrastructure and allow Aqua Ohio to provide the water service.
“We are asking them to sit down and talk,” Pegg said. “The commissioners should do their due diligence.”
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