Mansfield Building

City of Mansfield Municipal Building.

MANSFIELD -- A proposed $35 million overhaul of Mansfield's water treatment plant likely has resulted in discussions about raising the city's water rates.

The Mansfield City Council public utilities committee will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss possible increases.

The committee, and other council members, will meet with Public Works Director Dave Remy and city engineer Bob Bianchi.  The virtual meeting will be live-streamed on the city's Facebook page.

Under what's being proposed, water rates would go up Jan. 1, 2021, and then each of the following five years.

Council, as a whole, meets again Aug. 4. 

Jason Lawrence, who represents the city's 5th Ward, chairs the public utilities committee, joined by members Phil Scott (at-large) and Jon Van Harlingen (3rd Ward).

Last week, the city took the first step toward the estimated $35 million project.

The Board of Control approved Bianchi's request to spend up to $40,000 with the Brickler & Eckler law firm to draw up paperwork needed to prepare for a bidding process.

Bianchi said the project will likely be issued as a mandate from the Ohio EPA through a notice of violations.

He said the project would likely be presented to Mansfield City Council during August session. He said the timeframe for the project depends on council approval, a process he said that could take weeks or months.

During a council meeting July 7, Remy said an engineering study of the work required reveals the expected price tag "is in the neighborhood" of $35 million.

Remy first broached the topic at a June 16 council meeting.

"We have got some hard situations to consider," Remy said during the council meeting. "We don't want to hide anything from anybody. We want to be as transparent as possible."

The city is in the midst of a $17 million citywide water meter replacement program, implementation of which was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bianchi, who has said the project is necessary to replace aging water meters with a new and more accurate system, told City Council members in 2019 the new system will pay for itself through increased revenue. Council approved the program May 21, 2019.

He said also the city produces 9.5 million gallons of water per day, yet only collects revenue on 3.8 millions per day, largely due to aging, inaccurate meters. He said other losses, including water line leaks, water main breaks and fire hydrant flushing do constitute some portion of the difference.

"This is important. I cannot stress enough how important this is," Bianchi told council in early April 2019. "This is the foundation of the revenue that's associated with (other) projects we talk about. If we have a shaky foundation, we know what potentially could happen."

(An earlier version of this story incorrectly said council is also considering sewer rate increases. Sewer rates will not be discussed as part of this proposal. Sewer rates will increase on a schedule already approved by City Council.)

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"