MAPLE PARK – Maple Park residents should brace for higher water bills to the tune of about $11 a billing period in the near future.
Village trustees voted Sept. 4 to apply for an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan for a $533,000 project to improve aging water mains on the north and south sides of town.
The board voted 5-1, with Trustee Terry Borg voting against the plan, to widen the drinking water pipes under four streets. The widening will help increase water pressure.
The project targets pipes under Pearl, Center, Elm and Willow streets, and Borg said the $533,000 cost doesn’t include $30,000 in engineering fees.
Borg called the project “ill-advised.”
Borg said that although he does support the improvements on the south side of town, he said the improvements on the north side can wait because that area doesn’t have the same problems the south side pipes have, such as leaks.
“My position has been, at this point, tread cautiously on any increases for residents,” he said. “The need [for infrastructure improvements] is greater than funds actually permit.”
The project is being funded through a water surcharge added to each resident’s bi-monthly water bill. Borg said the surcharge would remain through the life of the 20-year loan, which means each resident will pay about $1,356 total in surcharge fees for the project, or almost $68 more a year, for 20 years.
The project has been in the works since 2007, before current Village President Kathy Curtis was elected. Borg, who has been a trustee for 12 years, said the board started looking into the project several years ago when the IEPA offered an interest-free loan.
It wasn’t until this year that engineering specs were finalized to go out for bids, allowing the village to secure a loan at a little more than 2 percent interest.
Curtis said the village is in the process of securing the loan, adding that Maple Park residents wouldn’t see higher bills until work begins. She said she wasn’t sure when the project would move forward or when the loan would be approved.
Borg said one of his main concerns about the project is coming across unexpected costs as construction starts. He recalled a similar project a few years ago to improve water pipes under Main Street that ended up being more costly than expected.
Curtis, who said she supported the project but didn’t vote, said there isn’t any money set aside for surprise costs.
“We’re always worried about costs that [we] incur,” she said. “Unfortunately, costs can occur when working with the age of our infrastructure.”
Curtis said it was too early to predict whether the water surcharge would be raised the in future to cover unexpected expenses. She said that because the surcharge isn’t in place yet, she hasn’t heard how Maple Park residents feel about it.
Borg said he thinks they won’t like it in light of a referendum to raise property taxes that failed a few years ago. The referendum came after the village had finished paying off bonds for sewer improvements.
Borg said the village asked residents to continue to pay the same amount they had been paying for the past 20 years to accrue money for infrastructure improvements, but the majority voted against it. He said residents will feel the same way about the water bill surcharge.
Curtis emphasized that the village board has been discussing the project for years.
“It has always been a majority vote,” she said. “We’ve already invested a lot of money in the development of this project into its final stages.”
Cost breakdown for Maple Park water main improvements:
Pearl Street improvements: $130,556
Center Street improvements: $122,975
Elm Street improvements: $128,246
Willow Street improvements: $151,448
Total estimated cost: $533,228
Total water bill surcharge: $12 extra per billing period over 20 years