Joliet residents will find a 7 percent increase in the rates the city will charge upon water and sewer bills beginning in November.
The measure was approved last week by the Joliet City Council in a 5-1 vote. Councilman Larry Hug cast the lone dissenting while councilwoman Brooke Hernandez Brewer abstained.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman questioned if the city needed to take action during the meeting.
“The reason I’m asking is because councilman Hug presented a five percent thing yesterday,” she said. “I had asked for six [percent] when I met with the consultants; they came up with seven [percent]. I was just wondering, did we really look at the five percent and would that be more palpable?”
The average cost of water and sewer bills will amount to $57.78 for residents and $38.52 for seniors.
City Manager James Hock tried to explain saying that a rate increase should have been adopted a year ago.
“The reason that staff could go along with seven percent was that it still accomplishes of our goal of having one percent for capital improvements,” he said. “As you recall in our efficiency study, it said we should be budgeting one to two percent annually, so we can get away from crisis management, we can get away from broken lines, and repair and replace them in a timely fashion, so we don’t get to the point where we’re reactive but we’re proactive.”
Hock said tabling the matter would mean that officials are choosing to delay city-related business.
In September, the Joliet City Council adopted a water and sewer operations efficiency study implementation plan, which outlines steps in which officials should take in the coming years.
“Every month you wait is another month we fall behind and can’t do those capital improvement projects,” Hock said.
Councilman Larry Hug said that a lower rate could be possible if the city holds off on the matter until the litigation process is completed for two sewer districts located outside of Joliet receiving water and sewer at no charge.
“We would actually be collecting more at that point than we’re asking,” he said.
Mayor Bob O’DeKirk said it needs to be made clear this isn’t discretionary spending. The city of Joliet was mandated by the federal government to change its water system, he said.
“The cost is going to be about $100 million that we have to pay for,” O’DeKirk said. “The city of Joliet has known that they needed to do this work since the 1980s. The bucket has been passed for 30-something years now, and we’re at the end of the road. If we don’t do this, the federal government is going to come and do it for us, and fine the city of Joliet.”
Councilman Michael Turk said increasing rates is not pleasurable or politically popular, but the city needs to take action.
“I think it started out with staff recommending 12 and a half percent,” he said. “We all met with the consultant and staff and told them, ‘although maybe that was needed, that wasn’t acceptable to us and the community.’ The five and a quarter percent over three or four years looks better than seven percent, but it’s not going to meet our obligations. I think it’s just kicking the can down the road further.”
Quillman said she agrees with Turk, and is relieved that officials reduced water and sewer rates as low as they did.
Hock said improving the city’s responsiveness to the matter is hoped to be viewed by constituents as an upside.
“I think that’s what the public, our residents, our customers expect of us as a utility, just as we expect out of Nicor and ComEd,” he said.
In March, the city hired a company to look at more than 300 miles of water mains to find underground leaks. That contract is for one year plus an extension until the end of 2017 if opted for.
Hock, noting that what is pumped out of wells into the city’s water towers compared to what they’re billing customers, said officials have noted issues.
In 2013, the city officials said they saw a 30 percent loss followed by a 15 percent gain and 30 percent loss in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
“There’s a 45 percent swing in there,” Hock said. “The industry standard is really a six to eight percent loss is acceptable. What this really tells us is that our billing system is unreliable.”
To that end, Hock said the city is in the process of implementing new billing software.
Presence-St. Joseph amendment approved
The city of Joliet is looking to increase the amount of the professional services agreed upon for the tax increment-financing district for the Presence-St. Joseph-area.
The measure, as is, voted on last week by the Joliet City Council allows officials to add $29, 720 to the agreement formed with the development advisory firm, S. B. Friedman.
The boundaries of the taxing district initially intended to cover the area bordered by Jefferson Street and Glenwood Avenue and include properties moving west along the Joliet-Junction Bike Trail toward Presence-St. Joseph Medical Center.
The extension of the tax increment financing district includes Hammes Avenue, and is charged to the city manager administration and professional services account.
Joliet City Council awards contract for building facilities maintenance study
To ensure that city-owned buildings continue to be assessed for future repairs, replacements, and maintenance, the Joliet City Council approved a contract to perform a building facilities maintenance study
There are 52 city-owned facilities in Joliet, including City Hall, the Joliet Police Station, Fire Stations and more.
The city received 12 bids for the project, and is awarding the $186,166 contract to CDM Smith using funds allocated for public utilities administration and professional services, parking operations and professional services, and building and grounds and professional services.
City supports 2016 pavement marking program with additional funding
Joliet officials are moving forward with plans to work on the pavement along various streets within city limits as part of the city’s pavement marking program.
The project, as is, approved last week will be paid for in motor fuel tax dollars in the amount of $482,682.90. State of Illinois requires the mayor and the City Council to approve a motor fuel tax resolution in order to use these funds.