Richfield Residents Take Extreme Measures To Conserve Water. About 80 households in Richfield are getting soaked by their water and sewer bills, and the cost could go up. Some families have taken to extreme conservation including shutting off the shower while soaping up and hauling five-gallon plastic jugs of water into the house to wash their hands and brush their teeth. Mike Began and Michele Pirozek don't water their lawn, run the dishwasher only once a week and do laundry elsewhere to save water -- still their water and sewer bill is about $1,500 a year. "I think we should all be conserving water," Pirozek said, "but to feel guilty about taking a shower in your own house is ludicrous." Water and Sewer LLC, their small, private utility that already charges some of the highest water and sewer rates in the state, is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to let it more than double its rates because the company is losing money.
If the increase is approved, some families could end up paying more than $6,000 a year. Water rates would jump from $11.28 per 100 cubic feet to $23.61. Sewer rates would increase from $12.33 to $27.59. Compare that to Akron, where water and sewer customers pay $2.14 and $3.04, respectively, not including additional billing charges. Utility owner Randy Kertesz admitted he wouldn't want to be his own customer. "I feel sorry for the people," he said. "But unfortunately, absent any other alternative, the rates are the rates."
A remedy would involve shutting down the utility and bringing in water service from Cleveland and sewer service from Richfield. But an ongoing dispute between a housing developer -- who happens to own the utility company -- and the township and village governments has kept that from happening.
Kertesz, a housing developer, bought about 125 acres of wooded, undeveloped property in the township about eight years ago. He didn't want to be in the utility business, but the nearby water and sewer plants came packaged in the deal. The utility serves a mix of condos and single-family homes that were there before he bought his land, and could serve Kertesz's future development. Since the purchase, Kertesz has lobbied both the village and township to accept a proposal for small lots and high-density housing on his township property. He's seeking to build about 200 single-family homes.