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City Council Discusses Water Rate Increase

Report: Inflation, steady rates caused costs to outpace revenues.

Des Plaines city officials are considering a plan that would raise water and sewer rates by about $10 a month per household starting in 2012 to make up for deficits in the city’s water and sewer fund.

Deficits in the fund will continue if rates are not increased, said Kristin Rehg, a consultant with Baxter & Woodman, a firm hired to study the city’s water and sewer systems. The group presented their findings at a budget meeting Wednesday.

Inflation and steady rates have caused annual maintenance costs to outpace revenues since 2006, according to the report.

Earlier:

The proposed plan, which would generate an additional $3 million each year, would account for infrastructure improvements and equipment replacements in the long term, Rehg said. Under the current rates, the city brings in $790,000 for the water and sewer fund.

By being proactive with the proposed plan, maintenance could be scheduled on a regular basis, preventing costly emergency repairs, she said.

Tim Oakley, director of , said half of the city’s water mains were about 50 years old, and about 10 to 15 percent of the city’s mains were 75 years old, the lifespan of a water main.

The city averages 100 water main breaks each year, 60 percent above the target level for municipal water utilities, according to the report.

Rehg said Chicago’s rate hikes, if passed, will affect Des Plaines residents, and those costs would be in addition to those outlined in the proposed plan. Des Plaines gets its water supply from Chicago.

Consultants also recommended establishing fixed charges to prevent fluctuations in revenue and pro-rate charges based on meter sizes so larger users would pay more.

The report recommended city officials send notices to all customers who do not pay within 30 days after their bill deadline. Currently, delinquent residents get about four months before their water is shut off.

To get water turned back on, residents should pay a $100 fee plus an additional $150 fee to have it turned on outside regular business hours, the report recommended.

Two alderman voiced opposition to this plan, saying struggling residents shouldn’t have to pay additional fees to have their water turned back on.

“It’s like kicking them when they are down,” said Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten. Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad said he was also opposed.

The plan’s overall rate increases aren’t meant to be a “money maker,” said Third Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz, but rather cover the city’s costs to provide water and sewer services.

If approved, the rate increases would go into effect Jan. 1.

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