Cuyahoga Falls -- City Council will vote Feb. 13 on a new sewer service contract with the city of Akron that is aimed at shielding Cuyahoga Falls from any costs associated with improvements made in Akron.
Finance Director Bryan Hoffman said a new Master Meter Agreement with Akron for sewer services was a "long time coming." The current agreement, Hoffman said, was approved in 1994 and expired in 2004. The cities have been operating under the terms of the old agreement ever since, he said.
The city's Law Department began negotiating the new contract with the city of Akron in August 2015, according to Hoffman. Akron wanted to standardize all the contracts so that each community didn't have a different contract. Lakemore, Springfield Township and Tallmadge were also involved in negotiations, as well as the Montrose and Mud Brook areas which are billed by Summit County.
Hoffman said Akron bills the Master Meter Communities on a monthly basis and they, in turn, bill their customers/residents. The current rate to Master Meter Communities, $2.69 per 1,000 gallons of waste, increases to $3.04 this year and $3.18 by 2019.
The impact to the city of Cuyahoga Falls equates to a 29-cent per-month increase for the average residential customer, according to Hoffman. The rate increase would have been larger under the old contract, he said, adding negotiating this contract kept the rate increase at a minimum.
He said the agreements between Akron and each community are identical. The start of the new contract depends on when all parties sign it. Akron reportedly approved the agreement the same night that Falls discussed it. The contract states the term of the agreement is until Jan. 1, 2040, he added.
"We began negotiating this contract with the idea [that] obviously we didn't want to have Cuyahoga Falls residents paying any more than we have to, and we shouldn't be paying for any of Akron's problems," Hoffman told the Falls News-Press.
The annual rate adjustment was made on Jan. 1, 2017, explained Hoffman. The terms of the deal with Akron were utilized to calculate the annual adjustment under the assumption that the full execution of the contract would be completed in early 2017, he said.
Hoffman said the new contract will lower the city's share of maintenance costs on the Akron-owned trunk lines that run between Cuyahoga Falls' sewer lines and the Akron sewage treatment plant on Akron Peninsula Road. With the new contract, Cuyahoga Falls will pay 35 percent and Akron, 65 percent.
Sewer service rate calculations will be done every four years, rather than every year, Hoffman said, and they will be based on budgetary expenses rather than actuals. Hoffman said the new deal will stop retroactive calculations, which he said is a benefit to the residents.
"One of the issues we had with that [was] over the past couple of years Akron had come back with 'retro payments' because their costs were higher than they anticipated, and that became difficult for the city [of Cuyahoga Falls]," he said.
Included in the agreement is a mediation clause that gives the city a better way to monitor and dispute costs and a "Me Too" clause that states that if another community negotiates a more favorable term in the future those same terms would be given to the city of Cuyahoga Falls.