ELBURN – Opting for a gradual increase in what ultimately will be a significant boost to residents’ sewer bills, Elburn’s director of public works Monday night suggested that the sewer rate should rise about $1 per 100 cubic feet, effective with the May billing cycle.
It is part of the village’s plan to upgrade its wastewater plant, a project that would cost $7.65 million.
The village has $1.5 million available and would need to secure loans to cover the rest. To pay back the loans, it will be necessary to raise fees, officials said.
At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, John Nevenhoven, the director of public works, said the sewer rate would have to increase by at least $1 per 100 cubic feet of water each year for the next four years to reach the recommended rate of $7.10 by May 1, 2017. That rate now is at $2.82 per 100 cubic feet, and the recommendation is to raise it to $3.80 per 100 cubic feet by May of this year.
“You can see that we are a bit behind in getting to that $7.10,” Nevenhoven said.
The impact of the proposed increase for this year would be between $7 and $8 a month. The plan would be for the sewer rate to grow by the same amount each year through 2017 – meaning the monthly cost would go up each year – but that could be diminished if the village experiences growth. Instead of waiting and making a more dramatic increase to the sewer rate, Nevenhoven said the plan is to make smaller annual increases.
Trustees backed the move, but they decided against adding it to the consent agenda for the March 17 meeting, instead keeping it as a separate item, so that there may be more discussion on the topic.
Last year, the village and officials from Sugar Grove-based Engineering Enterprises Inc. explained the need for the modernization of the wastewater treatment facility. Officials said there were safety and efficiency issues that are necessary to address. As far as safety, officials have said that a public works employee must go down a one-person elevator in difficult conditions on a regular basis. Trustees have said that issue is a significant one.
Nevenhoven said the modernization is necessary. He said the plant is 30 years old “and needs to be brought up to date.”
“The plant we have right now would not be allowed to be built in this day and age,” he said. “It definitely would not meet today’s standards.”
Village leaders also have stressed that it does not have anything to do with last year’s approval of the Elburn Station project, which promises to eventually double the population of the village. The wastewater project does not add capacity. However, Nevenhoven said growth would provide a benefit. As the number of customers would grow, he said, the cost would go down, since there would be more residents to help cover the payments.
He said “hopefully, we don’t have to get to that $7.10.” He said it’s possible that the project comes in under the estimated price, and that population growth helps lower the impact. Trustee Ken Anderson asked if the cost would be adjusted once the project was paid off.
“Absolutely,” Nevenhoven said.