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Local News

Joliet eyes hike in water and sewer rates

JOLIET – A proposed hike in water and sewer rates for Joliet residents could come up for a vote this week.

Rates would go up anywhere from 7 percent to 12.5 percent in November, according to the proposal. That would range from $3 to $6 a month on an average bill, although the proposal recommends continued annual increases for at least three years and possibly until 2025.

The rate increase is on the published agendas for the Monday and Tuesday council meetings. The rates were discussed at a Sept. 19 meeting by the council, which voiced mixed opinions about the 12.5 percent increase recommended by a consultant hired to review long-term financial needs for the Utilities Department.

“People are just getting on their feet, and to be hit with something like this all of a sudden is pretty tough,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said.

Councilman Pat Mudron, however, noted that a smaller increase was recommended a year ago when the council chose instead to conduct an efficiency study to look for savings in the Utilities Department.

The study concluded that the city needed to spend more on preventive maintenance and needed more people in the Utilities Department, but did not find many cost savings.

“If we don’t do this, it will be a much bigger increase next year,” Mudron said.

Project Manager David Naumann with Burns McDonnell, the consulting firm proposing the rate increase, said Joliet has avoided increases in water and sewer rates while they have been going up elsewhere to pay for mandated projects and other costs.

The typical Joliet resident pays $54 a month for water and sewer, while the regional average is $67, he said.

Naumann said Joliet rates have not gone up since 2011, while nationally rates have grown 36 percent.

“Revenue under existing rates just isn’t sufficient,” Naumann said.

The Utilities Department, which is funded solely through water and sewer rates, is projected to run out of reserve funds by 2022 at the existing rates. Joliet faces EPA mandated projects estimated to cost $106 million.

Naumann recommended that the city implement a three-year rate increase program. After three years, the city would review the need for future rate increases.

One plan starts with a 12.5 percent increase in November, followed by a 10.5 percent increase in 2017 and a 4 percent increase in 2018. The other plan recommends 7 percent increases for three years, but Naumann said the city would be looking at higher hikes in future years.

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PROPOSED INCREASES IN WATER AND SEWER RATES

Plan A: 12.5 percent in November, 10.5 percent in 2017; 4 percent in 2018. Continued increases to be considered in 2018.

Plan B: 7 percent increases in November. 7 percent in 2017; and 7 percent in 2018. Continued increases after 2018 could be higher than Plan A.

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