WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Commissioners are looking into consolidating water districts after a ruling made by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine was asked to give his opinion on whether any potential improprieties were taking place with Trumbull County’s water and sewer funds.
In June, WKBN First News reported that Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith reported to Commissioners that water and/or sewer funds received from some districts may have been used to supplement others that fell short.
Public records showed that in 2012, Howland Water overpaid more than $86,000, which is the same amount that Mosquito Creek underpaid. The next year, Mineral Ridge fell short by $85,000, but Brookfield Water made up for it.
A few weeks later, Sanitary Engineer’s Office Controller Joan Wells told Commissioners that the county’s past practice dating back several decades has been to subsidize struggling districts and that there was nothing improper or secretive about the procedure used.
Smith had a different view, however, so the Commissioners sought legal advice from the Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor also did not believe anything illegal was going on but asked for an opinion from DeWine.
Last month, DeWine gave the Commissioners three options: use money from the General Fund to pay for any deficiencies in the water districts, consolidate, or raise the rates to make up for any deficiencies a water district may have.
Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor Jim Brutz said Commissioners may consolidate the water districts but will first have to hold a rate study.
“As the Attorney General opinion says, technically it is a violation of the law. There is no wrongdoing, no nefarious actions by any boards of commissioners, and we just want to get it right, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Brutz said.