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Sycamore water fee increase in the works

SYCAMORE – Sycamore residents could see a small increase in their water and sewer bill this year.

Water and Sewer Fund discussions continued Monday as the Sycamore City Council explored ways to eliminate the nearly $273,000 Water Fund deficit and $179,000 Sewer Fund deficit for fiscal 2014.

Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory said the water system’s radium removal costs over the past seven or eight years are the main causes of the deficit. Since 2007, equipment and operating costs for radium removal have totaled nearly $3.5 million.

Gregory recommended an adjustment in user fees and meter maintenance fees beginning May 1.

The meter maintenance fee increase would reflect the actual costs per meter amortized over a 10-year period for commercial meters and a 15-year period for residential meters. This adjustment would reduce the deficit by about $50,000. However, the council still would need to make adjustments elsewhere.

Gregory presented multiple options including a one-time rate increase across all tiers, as well as a tier reduction plan. Ultimately, he recommended the council implement a plan somewhere between both options.

Gregory said the tier leveling option would begin a gradual decrease in the increment between tiers without reducing the number of tiers.

“Over time, we’re gradually tightening those tiers,” he said. “It’s softened over five years, which makes it a little easier to plan for.”

The annual increase over five years would begin at 1.5 percent for tier one and 6 percent for tier seven.

Most of the council agreed the tier leveling option was the best route for the city and its users, especially the commercial users.

“We’ve got to look out for our industries,” said Alderwoman Janice Tripp of the 4th Ward. “They create jobs.”

Residents also may see an increase in sewer user fees next fiscal year. Gregory said there is a substantial debt service the city will retire over the next few years. He proposed a one-time 3 percent increase to users, reflecting an additional $1.54 to the average user’s bi-monthly bill, upon which the council agreed.

Altogether, Gregory said the average user will pay an extra $1.84 a month, or $3.68 a bi-monthly billing period, for water, sewer and meter maintenance fees.

Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy said the increase in fees will help the city financially in the long run.

“Our fee structure and cost of that to the user would be favorably impacted by our stronger position financially,” he said.

Mundy encouraged the council to continue to look at the tiers, rates and overall structure of the funds on a yearly basis.

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