Montgomery OKs water rate hike in split vote : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Montgomery OKs water rate hike in split vote|
|Estimated 75 cent monthly increase will not affect Boulder Hill customers|
|by John Etheredge|
Montgomery residents will pay approximately 75 cents more each month for their water service as a result of action taken Monday evening by the village board.
In a split, 4-3 ballot the board approved a village staff recommendation to increase the village's water rate from $4.75 to $4.90 per 1,000 gallons of water used.
Village President Marilyn Michelini cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the increase.
Also voting yes on the motion were board members William Keck, Denny Lee and Matt Brolley. Board members Andy Kaczmarek, Stan Bond and Pete Heinz cast negative ballots.
Jeff Zoephel, the village's finance director, has estimated the rate increase will cost a typical village water customer 75 cents more per month or $1.50 more on village utility bills which are mailed to customers every other month, or six times a year.
Zoephel noted the rate increase will affect only village water customers who reside inside municipal limits.
He said water rates for the village's water customers in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision will remain at their current level of $6.03 per 1,000 gallons used.
During a board committee meeting last week, Peter Wallers, president of Engineering Enterprises, Inc., the village's engineering consultants, said the three percent rate increase is part of a package of annual rate increases spanning a five year period adopted by a prior board in 2009.
Wallers said the board agreed to an initial rate increase of 70 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used that was effective Jan. 1, 2010. A second rate increase of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons went into effect Jan. 1 of 2011.
In 2009 the board also agreed to smaller rate hikes of three percent annually for three years that began last year, according to Wallers.
Each of those increases, however, are subject to annual votes of approval by the board.
Wallers estimated the rate increase approved by the board Monday evening will generate an additional $75,000 for the village.
Board member Denny Lee told his board colleagues the extra revenues will help the village to pay for needed, yet unexpected repairs at municipal water wells.
Other board members, however, did not comment on the rate hike prior to balloting.
Following the meeting, Bond said he voted against the increase because he believed the board should first complete work on the village's annual budget. The village's next fiscal year will begin May 1 and the board typically approves its annual budget in early April.
"I feel we would know better whether we would need a rate increase or not after we had set our budget," Bond said, adding, "I think the timing of this is out of sync a bit."
Bond noted the village has also transferred "a fairly significant amount of money" out of its water fund into its general fund as part of its annual budgets.
"I'm anxious to look at that in detail," he said.
Bond added he is "very reluctant" to increase the cost of living for village residents at the current time, even if it's only an extra 75 cents a month.
"Well, we just raised our property tax a few bucks, too," he said.
Bond said, "I struggled with this a lot. You would be surprised how much. I read our water plan twice and it's a big document."
Bond said the argument that the board should approve such a small increase can be turned around.
"You can also say, 'You mean we couldn't have saved that much money or we couldn't make do for another year or two with what we have?'" he said.
Boulder Hill residents
urge rust problem fix
Earlier during Monday's meeting, four Boulder Hill residents urged the board to take corrective action to remove the rust from their water.
Several of the village's Boulder Hill customers began complaining of rust in their water after the village's public works department shut down a well on Nov. 19 due to the failure of an emergency motor.
When the well, located on the village's far west side, was shut down, the village began pumping water from wells on the village's east side, which changed the direction of water flow in Boulder Hill mains. The change in water flow direction served to stir up rust deposits in the mains, causing the water to turn orange and to take on a foul odor.
Village officials estimated in January that approximately 70 Boulder Hill homeowners had reported problems with rust in their water in November and December.
The board responded to the complaints by expediting repair work at the west side well. The prior water flow direction was re-established on Jan. 20 after the well repair work was completed last month.
However, several Boulder Hill residents have continued to report finding rust in their water.
At a meeting last week, the board directed Mike Pubentz, the village's public works director, to research and come back to the board meeting with a map of affected Boulder Hill homes, as well as information on home filtration systems to remove rust.
Patrick Henry, who resides on Circle Drive West, thanked the board Monday evening for their "expeditious work" in repairing the well.
Henry added that he is not seeking compensation from the village or a reduction on his water bill as a result of the rust problem.
"I don't want it," Henry said of compensation.
Instead, he said he wants the village to restore the clean water he had received for the past 41 years. In addition, Henry said he wants assurances from the village that his water is safe to drink.
Another resident, Dawn Friel, who resides on Ashlawn Avenue, told the board that she has not seen an improvement in her water since she first reported the problem to the board six weeks ago.
In the meantime, Friel said she is spending $36 a week for bottled water.
"I'm just asking for somebody to fix it," she said.
Cindy Sansale, also an Ashlawn Avenue resident, told the board she continues to experience problems with rust in her water.
"Maybe it's time to call a water consultant or the EPA or something," she said.
Sansale said she is also not seeking a reduction on her water bill or some other compensation from the village for the rust problem.
"I don't want $50 or $75 either," she said, adding, "That doesn't begin to cover the cost for the damage done in my house. Just use that money to fix this problem."
Pat Stiles, who resides on Fieldcrest Road, brought a mason jar of rusty water he filled from his tap to show board members.
In addition, Stiles also displayed a water filter from his house that was saturated in rust.
"The (rust) problem still exists," Stiles said, adding, "When we turn on the water at my house it's like playing a slot machine. You never know what you're going to get."