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Trustees Talk Water Rate Increase

The village board will vote on the proposed three-percent increase on Feb. 27.

In two weeks, trustees will vote on a proposed increase in the water rates for the village and Boulder Hill. But the ordinance’s first reading Monday night indicated that some of those trustees still have questions about the idea.

The increase is based on a five-year plan adopted in 2009, following a water rate study conducted by Engineering Enterprises Inc. That plan called for an increase of 70 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used in 2010, 50 cents per 1,000 gallons in 2011, and a three-percent hike in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

If the proposal passes, the new rate will be $4.90 per $1,000 gallons used, an increase of 15 cents, according to Finance Director Jeff Zoephel. This means, if a household uses 10,000 gallons of water in a month, their bill will rise by $1.50, Zoephel said.

That increase will bring in about $75,000 to the village’s water fund, Zoephel said, which is used for infrastructure and other expenses related to the water system.

That system has had its share of issues lately. In December, one of the village’s wells went offline, forcing a costly repair, and requiring water to be pumped from different sources. That change in water direction shook loose rust deposits from the cast-iron pipes below Boulder Hill, according to Director Mike Pubentz, and resulted in rusty water until the well was repaired last month.

And while residents like Karol Armbruster of Montgomery said the rust problem has cleared up, fixing the well has not alleviated the years-long rust issues some Boulder Hill residents have been facing, due to those older pipes. Arene Hodges said Monday that the rust in the water is “simply unbearable,” and said she has been buying bottled water to cook, and showering at her daughter’s home.

Trustee Andy Kaczmarek asked Monday about the possibility of improving the Boulder Hill system, beyond the repairs undertaken when water mains there break. This would involve looping some of the water mains, so rust deposits don’t build up at the end of the lines. This would be an expensive proposition, but if the Village Board would like to include it in the next water rate study, they may, according to Village Manager Anne Marie Gaura.

Another water rate study will be included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, which the board is currently discussing. The budget is slated for a vote on April 9.

The three-percent water rate increase for 2012, however, is scheduled for a vote on Feb. 27. It would be retroactive to Jan. 1, and the new rate would first appear on the bills sent out in April, Zoephel said.

Kaczmarek suggested holding off on an increase, but Zoephel said that would require retooling the 2013 budget—several expenses are already set to be funded with the rate hike, he said. Trustee Bill Keck, who was on the board when the rate study was commissioned, said having such a plan helps the board know what revenues are coming in, and what water-related projects can be undertaken.

Trustee Denny Lee spoke in favor of the increase, saying, “I can’t see why a dollar and a half would hurt anybody that much.”

Armbruster also asked about receiving a credit on her water bill for, she said, 42 days of rusty water. Any financial recompense would be up to the Village Board, and as of yet, no trustees have raised the issue.

The board is scheduled to vote on the new water rate at its next meeting, on Feb. 27. Board meetings are free and open to the public.

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