City Council OKs $13.1M water repair plan

By Leah Nicolini

City Council unanimously passed the first reading for a water rate increase to pay for public water maintenance Monday.

The 10-year $13.1 million repair plan will fix the water supply well, improve water treatment, recoat the water tower and replace the water main.

“I am in favor of a standardized plan that we know what the infrastructure is going to be and how it’s going to be repaired over the next several years,” said 4th ward Alderman Bob Snow.

The water usage fees for 2016 will increase by 2.22 percent and 4.5 percent from 2017 to 2020. Fees will fluctuate in 2021 according to the consumer price index which Finance Director Cathy Haley said will be less than 1 percent.

A 15 percent charge will be added to water bills that are not paid by the 21st day of the month.

“I think we can debate how much we need to spend on the water fund and what needs to be done,” Snow said. “There will be various opinions on that. But what we can’t afford to do is to do nothing. It’s a utility.”

Retirement community Barb City Manor will receive a 70 percent discount off its water rate and service fee, according to the ordinance. Senior citizens and citizens who are the head of the ir households and have a medical disabilities or chronic illnesses with gross annual incomes at or below the poverty level are also eligible to receive a 70 percent discount off the water rate and service fee.

Sixth ward Alderman Dave Baker said the city might be able to make more money if those exemptions were eliminated.

“If all the sudden because our community has changed, there’s a larger number of people eligible to figure out how to apply and get this discount, maybe we shouldn’t go up in our rates but simply drop them and eliminate these exceptions,” Baker said. “And we might have more income that way.”

DeKalb citizen Dwayne Brown said he did not want the bill to cause an increase in water rates.

“The water fund has been used for everything but water usage,” Brown said. “If we would’ve kept the money in the water fund and used it for the proper purpose, we wouldn’t need to raise water rates today.”