Water Rate Jumps as City Faces Higher Fees from Suppliers
Oak Forest residents will pay about $13 more per quarter for water after aldermen approved a rate increase at a Dec. 18 meeting. The increase is a result of a rate increase by the city's water suppliers, Oak Lawn and Chicago.
Oak Forest residents' checkbooks will spring a leak starting Jan. 1, 2013, when the city's new water rate goes into effect. The increase comes after the aldermen approved the motion, set in place to cover an increase in the cost of water from suppliers Oak Lawn and the city of Chicago.
“This is strictly a pass-through rate increase,” said Troy Ishler, Oak Forest Public Works Director. “This is no profit to the city of Oak Forest on this.”
On Jan. 1, the water rate in Oak Forest will increase to a volume rate of 63 cents per 1,000 gallons. The increase means that the average resident will pay about $13 more per quarter, or $52 more per year.
Alderman Rich Simon voiced his displeasure over the increase and questioned if the water system in Oak Forest is operating as well as is should be.
“What I want to know is, is efficiency part of the problem,” Simon said. “How quick do we get to a water main break, a lot of things that.”
Mayor Hank Kuspa said that while there are some leaks in the system underground, the system is working properly. Something Ishler confirmed.
“I'd like to assure the aldermen that it is not inefficiency,” Ishler said.
Ishler added that while there is a discrepancy in the amount of water billed to Oak Forest by Oak Lawn and the amount of water the city pumps, a study is currently underway to pinpoint why.
“We're working to find out exactly why the spread is getting larger,” he said. “We're buying just as much water, but the consumers are using less. We're working to figure out why.”
Alderman Dan Ensing also voiced his displeasure over the increase, saying that Oak Forest is paying for the mishandling of water by the city of Chicago.
“These increases are being passed along so that we can take care of their infrastructure problems that they have,” Ensing said. “They're not passing these increases along to their customers that they have, like they are to the customers that they're basically holding hostage. … I'm just not a fan of paying for Chicago's infrastructure improvements, when they neglected their problems for years and they don't even collect all the money they should to pay for their own issues.”
Although both Ensing and Simon voted against the increase, the city council approved the move in a 4-to-2 vote, with Alderwoman Laura Clemons absent.
In a press release the city noted that the increase only applies to the rate increase from the city's water suppliers and that, “the city is in the process of evaluating all aspects of its water and sewer system, including the costs of routine infrastructure maintenance, and will report its findings to the city council in the spring.”
The city passed a similar rate increase in January, and residents' bills jumped by $1 for every 1,000 gallons used. Aldermen said the increase would reportedly help cover the increase in supply cost as well as a $700,000 deficit in the city's Water and Sewer Fund.
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