Aledo's water rates to rise

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

It seems the city of Aledo made a mistake over the past five years in not raising its water rates to keep up with the cost of useage, the Aledo City Council learned at Tuesday's Sept. 7, 2010 meeting.

City Administrator Janice Green said the council was looking to hold off on raising the rates until most of the city's water meters had been switched out, as well as finishing some city water projects, like water main replacement.

Issued in May 2007 the city has received a $2 million low interest loan from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) for building a new water tower in the Industrial Park, taking down one water tower near the VFW building and painting and relining a third tank on the SE side of the city. Some of the money was also used to finish a few water main projects throughout the city.

The water and sewer rates were to be determined by the operating and maintenance budget and the debt service payment, according to Janice Green, city administrator. Two ordinances detail the procedures for repaying a $4.3 million EPA loan taken out in 1993. Water and sewer rates were to be recalculated annually to cover loan repayments, according to Mark Walton, city attorney.

The IFA bond mandates that the city make monthly deposits to the water fund that are sufficient to cover the debt service, operations and maintenance and depreciation costs. "It appears that the city has not adjusted the rates since 2005," Walton reported to the council. "If the water rates are not increased ... the city will have to impose a property tax levy on all property in the city to cover all deficiencies in the water fund, or else it will be in default under the bonds and suffer significant loss of credit rating."

Water rates will be rising for Aledo customers starting with October's billing. The proposed rate increase is $17.42, up from $5.61, for the first 100 cubic feet or less (minimum charge) and $5.54, up from $3.01 for each additional 100 cubic feet of water.

Sewer rates will change to to a proposed $6.12 minimum, down from $7.80, with and additional $3.64, up from $1.03 per 100 cubic feet of water usage.

For water outside the city limits the charge will rise to $34.84, up from $11.22, for minimum use of water and $6.12, down from $7.80 for the minimum sewer charge and $11.30, up from $6.02 for water above the first 100 cubic feet and $3.64, up from $1.03 for sewer in excess of 100 cubic feet (based on water usage).

The last time water and sewer rates were change in Aledo was May 1, 2005.

Alderman Robert Rillie asked what the average customer's use was, as well as wanting to know how many customers are charged at the minimum rate only. He suggested that the charge for water usage for minimum could be raised from 100 cubic feet to a higher number, like 500 cubic feet, depending on how the numbers come out. He suspected that very few households would fall at the minimum. One hundred cubic feet equals about 750 gallons, Rillie said. "That's a pathetically small amount of water."

Green said she would come back to the council with numbers on users at the Sept 20 meeting.

Every year the city looks at water rates in connection with the annual budget, said Green. "The rates could change again in January," she added.

Green had some graphs for the council to view on water usage, from 1993. "Since 1993 there hasn't been much variation in the amount of water billed," said Rillie.

The city's unbilled users and water loss were also discussed. Steve Moller, public works director, said "The national average is 15 percent of what is being billed and what is being lost."

Two entities that are not billed are the Aledo swimming pool and any amount used to fill a fire truck tanker. "Other than the pool, we're probably not going to find one big leak," Rillie said.

Moller said that sometime in October he planned to set up a schedule to "exercise the water valves" on all the city's hydrants.

"Do we have any dead end mains?" Rillie asked.

Moller said, "Yes, a few."

City Attorney Walton was directed to prepare an amendment to the water-sewer ordinance for the next council meeting.

In other business the council:

• Learned the IMRF employee rate would rise from a 7-8.5 rate to 11.69, due to the Stock Market crash from a couple of years ago;

• Learned there were two major sink holes at the corner of SW 2nd Ave. and SW 3rd St., near the VFW. The city will repair the corner using city workers, with the pavement portion being completed by an outside firm. Estimated cost of the repair is between $55,000 and $65,000.

• Learned the Mercer County Jail project might have up to 100 construction workers when the project is going full force.

• Approved a resolution for performance of a survey and related engineering work on the East Main Street extension proposed right-of-way to Hwy 94. Missman Stanley & Associates, P.C. will perform the survey for $5,350.

• Approved a resolution moving $160,000 of TIF funding to the water fund for improvements to the City of Aledo Municipal Waterworks System;

• Approved a resolution directing distribution of $184,712.37 of surplus tax distribution to Mercer County Taxing bodies within Aledo.

• Approved two sign requests - One, from Mercer County 4-H for National 4-H week Oct. 4 - 8 and a sign from 1st Baptist Church's Collide Youth Ministry from Sept 12- 19.