Water, sewer rate hike likely

Vandalia residents will likely see small increases in their water and sewer rates, starting next month.

A 6.08-percent increase in water rates and a .59-percent hike in sewer rates are what’s being recommended, and what will go into effect unless the city council decides otherwise at its meeting next Monday night.

The increases are set through calculations on water and sewer rate production costs that are performed as part of the annual city audit. Those calculations show that the city’s water system expenses increased by 6.08 percent in the year ending April 30, and that its sewer system expenses were up by .59 percent for that same time period.

The water and sewer production cost analysis is part of the annual audit. The results of the most recent audit were presented to the council last week by Dale Timmermann and Tricia Elam of Timmermann and Co. Ltd. of Vandalia.

The council did not discuss the water and sewer rate after Timmermann presented the findings of the analysis, but Alderman Chad Feldpouch brought it up later in the meeting, questioning whether the city needs to increase rates.

Alderman Larry Cable, chairman of the water and disposal plants committee, said he believes the rates should be hiked.

“Let it go into effect,” Cable said, referring to the automatic increase provided through city ordinance.

“That would be my opinion, too,” said Alderman Larry Bennett.

But Feldpouch said he would “like to see more information” on the production costs before making a final decision.

Cable explained that all of the production cost information was provided by Timmermann and Co., and that he feels the city needs to have its rates reflect production costs.

“I sure don’t want us to get ourselves in a hole,” Cable said.

Cable noted that the analysis presented by the local CPA firm included recommendations for a 12.54-percent increase in water rates and a 1.96-percent increase in sewer rates. The council decided to let the recommended sewer rate hike go into effect, but dropped the water rate increase to 5 percent.

“If we had raised it (to the recommended amount) last year, we probably wouldn’t be (looking at an increase this year),” Cable said.

Public Works Director John Moyer, who was an alderman when the council approved the ordinance amendment that allowed for rate increases when warranted by production costs, reminded Feldpouch that the ordinance was passed because the council had been putting off increases.

Moyer reminded aldermen that the city had to implement double-digit increases after putting off rate hikes for several years.

Alderman Bret Brosman said he doesn’t want to that happen again.

“I would rather see a lot of little increases than huge jumps,” Brosman said.

In presenting the analysis, Timmermann told alderman, “Five or six years ago, you had quite a buffer (in the water and sewer fund). Your ability to offset (production increases) has decreased).

“I think you should strongly consider that when you consider what to do with the rates.

Feldpouch questioned whether the city could offset production costs by using monies from another city fund, but City Attorney Jack Johnston said the water and sewer fund is separate from the general fund, and that the only allowable transfer between funds is a loan.

Figures worked out by City Administrator Jimmy Morani show that by implementing the rate hikes recommended in the analysis, the city would increase the monthly minimum water and sewer bill (up to 2,000 gallons) from $28.65 to $29.47.

Also at last week’s meeting:

• The council set Friday, Oct. 31, from 6-8 p.m., as Trick or Treat Night in Vandalia. Children up through sixth grade are allowed to go trick-or-treating.

• The council approved the transfer of Vandalia Lake lot No. 67 from Thomas Burcham of Fairview Heights to Doug Garrett of Granite City.

• The council approved Tax Increment Financing (TIF) development agreements with Jody Osborne, Evans Public Library and George H. Huber.

The city is awarding a grant of up to $24,000 to Osborne for the second phase of an improvement project at Tiger Lily, a grant of up to $7,500 to the library for the replacement of original ceiling tiles and a grant of up to $2,000 to Huber for interior renovations to a building at 121 S. Fifth St.

• The council approved a seven-year, 3-percent loan from the city’s revolving loan fund to Southern Illinois Industrial Commercial Supply Inc. at Sunset Drive and Fletcher Street. The business plans to retain its existing staff of about six people and create six jobs over the next two years.

• The council approved an agreement with Hurst-Roche Engineers Inc. of Hillsboro for the installation of a third bay door for the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department quarters in the Public Safety Building at 221 S. Fifth St.

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