Chipping away at challenges

By on December 31, 2010

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—The village of Elburn worked to meet the challenges of budget belt-tightening in ways large and small, and in the process completed ongoing projects during 2010.

Most obvious for residents who had been living with train whistles blaring at all times of the day and night, Elburn succeeded in getting two train horns installed at both the Route 47 crossing and the First Street crossing in August.

The board had decided in January 2008 to install the horns, which direct sound only toward the immediate area of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Elburn agreed to pay the Federal Railroad Administration $124,125 for horns rather than install center barriers at a cost of $400,000.

Village President Dave Anderson said that by putting the installation work out to bid, the board saved $70,000.

The quieter atmosphere of train horns also extended to public comments to the board on its decision.

“You know you’ve done your job when nobody says anything,” Anderson said.

The Village Board found another savings opportunity by investigating a different type of secondary power source for the wastewater treatment plant. Law requires that the system have a second source of power if the first one should go down.

Original estimates for a diesel generator ran $550,000, but by talking with Com Ed, Village Administrator Erin Willrett discovered that the power company would install an underground source for $128,000.

“That’s a savings of $300,000 to the taxpayer,” Anderson said.

To Anderson, this past year saw the Village Boarding working effectively to get things done.

“The best thing about the past year is the cooperation and input and involvement of the board of trustees,” Anderson said. “I feel grateful for their participation. They are elected like all of us, but we’re a family, so to speak.”

In 2010, the board took steps to cap its deficit in water and sewer services by raising rates. It raised the water rates in Elburn from $2 per 100 cubic feet to a $5 base plus $2.60 per cf for sewer, and from $2.69 for water to a $5 base plus $3.50. The effect was to double the bills of many residents but bring the village back from the red.

“We were losing $20,000 every month. Now we’re at the break-even point,” Anderson said.

Personnel cuts were also a part of dealing with 2010’s budget dilemmas. The board closed its Building Department, reducing an outlay of $2,600 in monthly rent and reducing its staff from three building inspectors and a secretary to one full-time and one half-time inspector and no secretary.

When Assistant Village Administrator and Director of Community Development David Morrison resigned, that position was not refilled.

Anderson said that he has been impressed with the board’s ability to find ways to cut costs as it faces budget restraints.

“There have been a lot of ideas coming out of the board; ways we can do things,” Anderson said. “The neat thing is that we’re all taxpayers ourselves, and we’re trying to do things that are most economical and effective for the community.”