This group has made tremendous progress since last March when three out of four people from the Future of Toledo meeting who showed up to participate at the Project 3 flipchart were Department of Public Utility employees.
The Regional Water Cooperation project name was noticeably changed from its original “Regional Water Authority” title to clarify the cooperative intent of the participants. The project has the potential to affect more than half a million lives for decades to come, through continuing a conversation that did not begin here, but was resurrected to be addressed in new ways.
The group determined that it would not rush to identify solutions prior to engaging the appropriate stakeholders at the table, reviewing former efforts to gain momentum for this direction, considering ways to overcome previous barriers to success and identifying new approaches or solutions.
First steps involved inviting more partners to the table. Elected and administrative representatives were recruited by personal invitation from project champion Department of Public Utilities Director Dave Welch. The group, co-championed by Republic’s Paul Rasmusson now is comprised of a healthy number of professionals with water/wastewater utility expertise, local electorates and private sector representatives.
The project team’s primary objective is to create a model for regional water cooperation in order to ensure a continued safe, dependable, abundant and high quality water supply; improve infrastructure on an ongoing basis; and support regional economic development.
Initial conversations helped to identify issues which had stymied former efforts by TMACOG and others to help form a regional water authority, and partially air reasons for discontent with the current system.
The group identified aspects of what a great water model would look like, and some initial steps. It has examined the Lucas County Sewer District as a model for regional cooperation. TMACOG’s Warren Henry has been instrumental in providing valuable background material on past efforts to move toward a regional water model, highlighting components that remain viable.
Once such recurring theme is the creation of a group to serve as a Regional Water Board to help bring people together to share and learn from each other’s processes and to have an open dialogue about planned projects.