"Fight the Hike Ohio" combats higher rates
Customers of Ohio American Water gathered at Ridgewood Park in Blendon Township on Sept. 16 to kick of “Fight the Hike Ohio (FHO),” a coalition of citizens and civic leaders trying to combat the impending rate increases.
The aim of the coalition, said James Welch, Huber Ridge Area Association president and co-chair of FHO, is to take action by writing letters to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and government leaders urging them to take note of the issue and help the citizens affected. FHO is opposing the estimated 60 percent water rate increase over a four year period proposed by OAW.
According to the public relations firm FHO, the coalition will ask PUCO “to ensure that OAW is not asking for more in customer rates than the company actually needs to meet its expenses and provide a fair return to its shareholders while providing quality water service to its customers.”
In a speech given at the rally, Prairie Township Trustee Steve Kennedy claimed the company’s reasoning for the increase calls into question OAW’s ability to effectively manage their financial resources.
“The citizens of this state own the water, so Ohio American’s unjust and exorbitant rate increases are simply for the service of treating and distributing our water, and recovering costs that they should cover with their operating revenue,” alleged Kennedy.
“Our appeals to the PUCO have gone largely ignored, perhaps because those affected are from individual communities across the state rather than one centralized consumer base. Through Fight the Hike Ohio we know our collective voice is more powerful, and the PUCO knows we mean business when we say, ‘we’re not going to take it anymore.’”
“If Ohio American’s request for a four-year rate hike is approved, the company will have been successful in raising our rates 325 percent since the time they initiated service here just seven years ago,” added Welch.
Local residents sported their Fight the Hike Ohio shirts and many expressed their exhaustion with compromising their lifestyle due to the water and sewer rates.
“It’s just me in the house. Sometimes my two grandkids come to visit. We have to decide when we are going to flush (the toilet),” said long-time Blendon resident Delsa Evans. “If they raise the rate again I can’t pay it. I’m on a fixed income.”
Resident David Lorax said himself and others are “afraid to brush, flush and bathe” and many locals use rain barrels to water their plants.
Kennedy said he felt positively about the turnout.
For more information on FHO, visit FightTheHikeOhio.com. The Web site includes background information on previous rate increase and a way for OAW customers to voice their opinion.
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