Clearing Up Water Department Issues

Ohio state Auditor Dave Yost’s office has a reputation for letting the chips fall where they may when investigating local government operations. That makes him a good choice to audit the Steubenville water department.

Questions about the department, including some dealing with an estimated $3 million in delinquent bills, have intensified during the past several months. That may explain why new City Manager Tim Bo-land’s recommendation of an audit by Yost’s office is being received more favorably than a similar suggestion in December 2012 by former City Manager Cathy Davison.

It certainly appears council should have gone along with Davison. That might have forestalled some criticism – including accusations of favoritism in handling delinquent water accounts – being heard now.

Boland told council members he wants them to authorize him to enter into a formal agreement with the state auditor’s office. At a cost of no more than $70,000, Yost’s agency can conduct a wide-ranging audit of the water department, going back several years.

More than investigating how deliquent accounts are handled, the audit can recommend ways of operating the water department more efficiently, saving a substantial amount of money.

Boland and council members are moving in the right direction. Once an agreement is negotiated with Yost’s office, council should vote to proceed with the audit.