Cost to repair Boulder Hill water system: $7.8M : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Cost to repair Boulder Hill water system: $7.8M|
|Engineering firm presents initial estimate; bond sale, rate hike discussed|
|by John Etheredge|
An engineering firm has estimated the cost to loop and replace defective water mains in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision at $7.8 million.
Peter Wallers, president of Engineering Enterprises, Inc. (EEI), engineering consultants for the Village of Montgomery, presented initial cost estimates to improve the Boulder Hill water system to the village board March 14.
Wallers emphasized the cost estimates are very preliminary, and based on his firm's past experience with Boulder Hill water mains and "current bidding experience" with contractors.
Though located outside municipal limits, the village has owned and maintained the Boulder Hill water system since the late 1950s, shortly after the first homes were built in the subdivision. Today, the village provides water service to just over 2,800 households in the subdivision,
At Wallers' request, the board agreed to have EEI prepare more detailed cost estimates for the Boulder Hill improvements as part of a larger village-wide water rate study.
Wallers said his firm would present a draft report of the study to the board this fall.
Board members also discussed the possibility of increasing water rates to Boulder Hill customers to provide the funds necessary to pay-off bonds that could be sold to finance the needed water system improvements.
If the village were to sell bonds, Wallers said he believes the improvements identified in his study could be completed in about a year.
The EEI study identified three areas encompassing approximately 250 homes that have reported water quality issues, including high iron content.
The areas are a large section of homes located generally along and near Circle Drive West and Ashlawn Avenue; Creve Court off Scarsdale Road; and Hubbard Way between Saugatuck Road and Long Beach Road.
The EEI study calls for the replacement of existing small diameter water mains, looping some mains to improve water flow and replacement of water mains in targeted areas.
Official: System 'past
the Band-Aid stage'
Board member Bill Keck he believes the need to fix the Boulder Hill water system is now past the "Band-Aid" stage and described the recommended improvements as a "reasonable approach" to solving the subdivision's water system problems.
"I think the best solution we have here is a long-term solution that will address this problem once and for all," Keck said, adding, "I would like to see this get fast-tracked as much as possible. We have an ongoing problem that is not going to get better."
In addition, Keck said he was relieved to see that preliminary estimates to finance the repairs would cost a typical Boulder Hill water customer approximately $150 per year, or just over $12 more per month.
Board member Denny Lee, however, said some Boulder Hill residents who are currently not experiencing water problems may question why they may be required to pay more for their water if the board were to approve a rate increase.
Board member Matt Brolley noted that long-term Boulder Hill residents have been "vested in the system" by paying their water bills over the years.
He asked Wallers if the village has ever factored in the need to pay for long-term maintenance costs in the rates charged to Boulder Hill customers.
Wallers said the village did begin setting aside some water payment revenues-approximately $250,000 annually--for a main replacement program a few years ago.
"But prior to that, to the best of my knowledge, funds were never set aside just for a water main replacement program," he said.
Brolley said he recently read an article in a national publication which indicated the village is just one of many communities across the country that has not set aside enough revenues over the years to maintain its aging infrastructure.
Wallers said there now is a "big push" nationally for municipalities to do "full cost water pricing" which factors in the need to replace infrastructure in addition to covering daily operational costs.
Wallers noted the City of Chicago is currently in the process of raising water rates to provide funds to replace approximately 75 miles worth of aging water mains per year.
"It's a pretty common (problem)," Wallers said, "We are not alone. We made the initial investment (in the Boulder Hill water system) and then sat back and have not reinvested."
Referring to the need to replace aging water mains, Wallers said, "There's never a good time, but at some point you have to start replacing aging pipe."
"What would be the pain involved in waiting for 100 years?" Brolley asked.
"Then you're looking at a massive bond issue and your passing that cost along to future generations," Wallers said, adding, "I think we have to try to do some of this work before it gets to be a crisis."
Keck attributed the current need to replace and loop water mains to the late Don L. Dise, developer of the Boulder Hill Subdivision.
"This is necessitated because of all the shortcuts that Don Dise took when all that was built up there. Maybe no one else will say that," Keck said, adding, "That's the reason we are in the situation we are in."