REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Erie County's water math doesn't add up

Abracadabra. That's what Jack Myers, the Erie County sanitary engineer, could have said earlier this month when he told county officials and Sandusky city commissioners that the county's rural water district turned a profit last year.
Commentary
Apr 22, 2010

Abracadabra.

That's what Jack Myers, the Erie County sanitary engineer, could have said earlier this month when he told county officials and Sandusky city commissioners that the county's rural water district turned a profit last year.

Erie County Commissioner Bill Monaghan in the past has referred to the chameleon-like accounting practices used by the county sanitary engineering department, and the profitable water district appears to be a product of the smoke and mirrors that entails.

Monaghan and Commissioner Pat Shenigo hoped to set a course to foster a more regional, countywide approach on water, but they were upended when the figures Myers provided showed a profit, rather than a loss, for the rural water district. But Myers simply shifted away some of the expenses -- about $122,000 -- out of the expense column in a handy way to create the illusion of profitability.

Shifting money that way has been an acceptable and approved practice for years, Commissioner Tom Ferrell Jr. said.

Well, it probably should never have been an acceptable practice, and if Monaghan and Shenigo have their way, it won't be in the future.

But the damage was done, and the illusion of profitability created a sea of misinformation as city and county officials worked to negotiate water rates. Sandusky ex-officio mayor Dan Kaman offered his thoughts on shifting numbers.

"The county coming to the table with two or three sets of numbers definitely didn't help them," Kaman said.

It doesn't help anyone.