East Moline approves modified sewer, water rate hike plan

Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010, 10:26 pm
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By Lindsay Hocker, lhocker@qconline.com
EASTMOLINE-- Aldermen approved a modified plan to raise water and sewer hikes Monday.

City council members approved increasing water and sewer rates as previously presented. But they also approved amendments that immediately froze billing fees for both water and sewer and gave residents discounts for paying on time and online with a checking account.

Mayor John Thodos cast the deciding ballot in the 4-3 vote. Supporting the hikes were Alds. Cheri Bustos, 4th Ward; Luis Puentes, 2nd Ward; and Helen Heiland, 1st Ward. Opposing it were Alds. Jeff Stulir, 3rd Ward; Dave Kelley, 5th Ward; and Gary Westbrook, 8th Ward. Ald. Roseann Cervantes, 6th Ward, was absent due to a family emergency.

Under the modified plan, a family using 7,500 gallons per month will pay $19.41 more per month for water and sewer by 2014, while a household using the minimum of 1,500 gallons or less will pay $3.89 more per month. The increases will be spread over the next five years, through September 2014, with water hikes starting in September and sewer hikes starting in September 2011.

Ald. Bustos, who formerly proposed eliminating both water and sewer billing fees for residents, offered Monday night's compromise to let the city move forward with sewer/water plant improvements while providing some relief to residents. She altered her motion after hearing the loss of revenue would prevent East Moline from receiving 1.25 percent interest state revolving loans for EPA-mandated water and sewer plant improvements. Afourth of the loans can be forgiven, which would save the city more than $3 million.

Residents who pay water/sewer bills on time are eligible fpr a 1 percent discount. A$1 monthly discount also is available for residents who pay water/sewer bills using an automatic withdrawal from their checking accounts. City documents state a minimum water/wastewater user could save $14.83 annually through the two discounts.

Ald. Kelley said he opposed the increases because he disagreed with the billing fees and his belief that having the salaries of 16 people factored into the water/sewer plant costs is "excessive." City attorney William Phares said the salaries "are indirect costs that have to calculated as a cost of producing water." Not including them, he said, would mean the city wasn't accurately charging for the cost of providing water and providing a subsidy for out-of-city users.

In a separate 4-2 vote, aldermen also approved higher water/sewer rates for out-of-city customers. Alds. Stulir and Kelley voted no.

In other city news:

-- Aldermen voted to end a lease on Nov. 1 with H.C. Duke & Son, Inc. for land where Officer Park playground equipment once was. The playground equipment is now slightly to the east on property owned by Timberline Pallet for which the city has an existing use agreement.

-- Aldermen approved city staff applying for a grant that would let the city complete its portion of the Grand Illinois Trail Bicycle Path, while only paying 20 percent of the cost. The grant would fund an estimated $897,303, leaving the city with a $179,460 obligation. The project would extend the bicycle path from 7th Street and 12th Avenue to 21st Avenue and along 21st Avenue to Archer Drive where it would connect to Butterworth Park, the lakeside walking trail and Soule Bowl.

-- During the committee-of-the-whole meeting, aldermen advanced to the full council a resolution to create a tax increment financing district at the former 150-acre Case-New Holland site. Since the plant closed in 2005, Cattani Crane Rental and East Moline Glass Co. have bought about 11 acres, leaving nearly 130 acres for a developer.


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