Water Industry News

Water bill increases will come faster than promised

By CORINA CURRY, Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — The City Council approved a 39 percent rate increase for water service Tuesday night, but not before two aldermen pointed out that the increases will come faster than promised.

The city pitched the $75 million water improvement plan last fall. It called for a three-year, three-step rate increase. But Tuesday night, Aldermen Linda McNeely and Jeff Holt made note of the rate increase schedule saying that increases come over a two-year period.

“Residents are going to see a 27 percent increase in one year,” Holt said. “That’s not the way it was verbally presented to us. It was always spread over three years.”

Despite his support for the water system overhaul, Holt voted against the rate increase. McNeely expressed her displeasure with the conflicting information but voted for the increases. The measure passed the full council by a vote of 13-1.

The plan calls for a 15 percent increase on April bills, a 12 percent increase on January 2007 bills and an eight percent increase on January 2008 bills, which compounds to 39 percent overall. The plan is virtually the same as originally presented.

City officials say the improvements will address long-standing problems with the city’s water including discoloration, low pressure and above-normal radium concentrations.

The new system would take the city’s water works from 39 wells to 18 with 12 backup wells. Five wells would be abandoned. Improvements would be made in all four quadrants of the city.

The proposed upgrades include the construction of 10 water-treatment plants; installation of two new wells; the addition of variable-speed pumps and new electrical controls at primary well sites; construction of about 15 miles of new water mains; and demolition of three dilapidated concrete water-storage tanks.

The city would borrow money to pay for the upgrades and pay back the debt over 20 years through the water-rate hike.