Village officials: Higher water, sewer charges needed

By on February 26, 2010

Rate hikes, customer fee among options
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Senior resident Joanne Gordon is concerned about the impact that a proposed $20 water and sewer fee would have on her household budget and those of others. Village officials are considering the new fee to boost revenue they said is necessary to ensure efficient water and sewer services.

“I understand the need, but it is going to be a hardship on many people,” said Gordon, who lives in the 300 block of West Nebraska Street.

The $20 customer fee per household would increase water and sewer revenue by $463,200 per year, Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said.

During Monday’s Village Board meeting, Gordon asked the board to consider an alternative that would have a smaller impact on the pocketbooks of those with fixed or limited incomes.

“Is there something that can be proposed that would be in the middle, that would be less hard on people?” Gordon said.

Village trustees discussed other options Monday, such as charging senior households and those who use the least water either a lower customer fee or no fee. They also talked about raising the rates that the village charges for usage in the future. Those rates have not changed for many years—$2.69 per 100 cubic feet for water and $2 per 100 cubic feet for sewer.

“We are going to have to look at a higher price for water,” Trustee Bill Grabarek said.

The Village Board is expected to make a decision about charging more for water and sewer services during their 2010-11 budget planning within the next three months.

By the end of the fiscal year this summer, the village’s water and sewer fund will have about $53,000 available for capital improvements, compared to $543,000 five years ago, Nevenhoven said.

The existing water and sewer fund falls far short of what is necessary to pay for operations and several major water and sewer improvements Nevenhoven said are needed this year to keep the system operating smoothly (see below).

“This (the $20 customer fee) is one of the quickest ways to get that fund re-built,” Nevenhoven said. “I realize it’s going to be hard on people, but we need to push the water from the well to the user and we need to treat it.”

The reason the fund has dwindled is because water and sewer connection fees collected by the village for new homes have dropped dramatically with the residential building decline, Nevenhoven said. The water and sewer fund, under state law, must be self-sustaining and cannot include property tax revenue, he said.

Trustee Ken Anderson suggested implementing the customer service fee and when it builds up the water and sewer capital fund enough to pay for needed improvements and emergency projects, then the village could transition out of the customer fee and into a higher usage rates.

Trustee Patricia Romke and Village President Dave Anderson said the $20 fee is not an unreasonable amount for households to pay.

“I just think that this is so minimal,” Romke said.

The minimum monthly household water and sewer bill of $24.69 for water and sewer, including the $20 proposed customer fee, would be less than a dollar a day, Village President Dave Anderson said.

“I believe the water I use in a day is worth $1, fixed income and all,” he added.

New revenue needed
for improvements

The village of Elburn proposed a $20 monthly customer fee for water and sewer services to provide revenue for system improvements this year including the following:
• removing and replacing sections of
sewer that have collapsed in the
Cambridge subdivision, $20,000;
• extending the Main Street Alley
west-side alley water line to
eliminate a dead-end causing
stagnant water odor, $20,000;
• sequestering iron at wells No. 3 and
No. 4 for $27,000;
• installing a Third Street water main
extension from the library to
Shannon Street, $40,000;
• inspecting and repairing well No. 3
pump, $10,000; inspecting the north
water tower, $3,000;
• inspecting and cleaning the
Blackberry Creek water tower,
• rebuilding a wasting pump at
the treatment plant, $8,000.
Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven presented these project proposals to the Village Board on Monday and said they need to be done as soon as possible, hopefully this summer.