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City Council Passes Local Water Rate Hike

Alderman Dan Ensing was the lone dissenter, saying he believes the city should explore other options before increasing fees.

aldermen voted 5 to 1 Tuesday, Jan. 24 to increase residents' water fees by $1 per 1,000 gallons used—almost two weeks after officials had tabled the issue.

Ald. Richard Simon was not present at Tuesday's meeting; Ald. Charles Toland said Simon is dealing with a personal situation. 

The lone dissenter against the hike——was Ald. Dan Ensing (5th Ward).

"Nobody wants to see the water rates increase at this point," Ensing said after Tuesday's meeting. "Nobody wants to see anything increase."

The rates will take effect on Feb. 1. The average resident should expect to see a $20 increase per quarter. The increase will reportedly help cover the increase in supply cost as well as a $700,000 deficit in the city's Water and Sewer Fund.

Ensing said he would have rather investigated more ways to cover the costs rather than a rate increase, especially because the city passed a $15 surcharge two years ago that was supposed to address the Water and Sewer Fund deficit.

"At that time [officials] were told that surcharge would address about a $500,000 deficit," Ensing said. "Two years and two months later, the deficit has now grown to $700,000. ... We need to look at why this deficit is occurring and what we need to do with it, rather than raise fees."

During public comment, resident Joe Rossi asked why the rate increase per unit of water sold is 67 cents, when Oak Lawn—which is where the city gets its water—is passing on an increase of 50 cents.

Finance Director Colleen Julian said the increase per unit is due to the amount of water that is wasted, primarily due to a leaky and aging infrastructure.

"Although it is difficult to raise rates during hard economic times," she wrote in a memo, "it is necessary to maintain and improve the system required to deliver safe and reliable water and sewer utlities."

Treasurer Dwayne Fox said it's important to remember that the City of Chicago is increasing its own fees in an attempt to repair that municipality's infrastructure as well."I want the council to be informed," Fox said. "They're not just raising fees because they want to, they're raising them because they have to."

Ensing said he understands the issue, but still wanted officials to explore alternatives further."It's unfortunate," he said. "We have a water deficit and it needs to be balanced. Unfortunately, it needs to be balanced on the backs of the consumer."

25yrsHERE January 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM
i agree. sounds like we have a bunch of YES people that are too clicky and dont want to be the one to think on their own. researching other ways to pay for items would take up too much of their time AND they dont want to ask people to go above and beyond their 9-5 job duties. the group should start asking questions instead of acting like a lemming.
Cathy January 25, 2012 at 05:34 PM
This is why people and business are leaving OF. There are so many empty houses and business space. Just another reason to move.
phxdr January 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
This is news to me. So the 15 dollar charge was put in place to help fill a 500,000 deficit and after the 2 years that deficit has now grown to 700,000? This is BEFORE the huge increase comming in the comming years from the Chicago increase. What is going on? So now we are talking about replacement/repair of infastructure that leaks? A few years ago I had a water pipe burst in our parkway and remember the work that was involved to dig and in large part because of the tree roots that needed to be removed (in oak forest most of the water mains are right under the trees). I think the city as a whole should start playing lotto before replacement of water pipes is talked about because at the cost of doing that it would take the powerball to get it done.
Darnell January 25, 2012 at 07:02 PM
So,,,who's going to file a class action suit over the surcharge that didn't do what it was supposed to? What was that money used for? Where did it go? Wait,,,,maybe it was passed on to Bob Rita so he could write the check for Ald. Beales daughters tuition to the Uof I ! Democrats,,,keep voting them in and they'll keep stealing your money!
Tom S January 25, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Is the city talking with other communities who get Chicago water about possible litigation against the City of Chicago? Why are the burbs paying so much compared to Chicago residents? The infrastructure to get OF the water has been in for years.
phxdr January 25, 2012 at 07:44 PM
It is NEVER a good idea to pick a legal fight with a global city when you a small suburb(s). Some of the suburbs of both Phoenix and Atlanta have been in court with PHX and Atlanta and guess who wins? Major cities have a army of legal advisors and lawyers and they are the best at what they do. The City of Chicago is charging the residents of chicago the same rate they are going to charge the suburbs. You can be promised that the city of chicago knows what it is doing and knows it will hold up in court.
Tom S January 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Chicago residential water rate is $2.51 per 1000 gal as of 1/1/12. OF rate will be $6.02 not including sewer charges.
JC January 25, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I am with you Tony. Talk about a bunch of lazy people not doing there job's as alderman for the people of OF. Where are the business's in this village? Why are the homeowners having to carry the burden of increases and where is the money going and what is being done in our village.Absolutely nothing! Besides I am smelling more chlorine in our water than ever...What is going on? Crooks...all of them!!
JC January 25, 2012 at 08:22 PM
You are absolutely right. Is there anything we can do from here.
Darnell January 26, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Thinking of going into the Well business!
Darryl Kowalewski January 26, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Patch, is there any chance we can get some more in depth reporting on this one? It would be nice to know the names of all of the suburbs that get their water from the city of Chicago, what their rates are, what their infrastructure state is currently, their infrastructure plans for the future and how they plan on financing them, how they have addressed issues they have encountered, who controls the pipes that the city and all of the suburbs get their water from, what are the reasons that the price has gone up in the past, is it based on inflation, if not how much has it outpaced or underpaced inflation, are all suburbs under the same contract terms with the city of Chicago, can they form a cooperative to have more leverage over Chicago. I think answers to those questions would be quite enlightening and informative. Thanks
Darryl Kowalewski January 26, 2012 at 08:19 PM
By the way, anyone in this thread that complained about them being "crooks" and "lazy" and just a big "click", do you know any of the answers to the questions I posed above? If you do, did you go to the meeting and point out those facts? If you did, good for you, thanks for trying. If you didn't, get involved. I didn't either unfortunately. But I will get involved now, and hopefully it will serve as a reminder to me to be more proactive and involved in the future. I will take the first question I asked and find the answer and post it here when I do. If you didn't take part in the political process, but instead complained about it on here, please step up and answer my second question and post it here. If you are reading this and care to get involved, please answer my third question and post your answer here. I would love to eventually see all of my questions answered, so we will all be fully informed. Even if it is a little late on this issue, we will be more awake next time some other piece of legislation comes before us that we want to weigh in on before it is too late.
Darryl Kowalewski January 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Question one: It would be nice to know the names of all of the suburbs that get their water from the city of Chicago. Names, not yet, I am thinking of writing, calling, and filling out an FOI to get them though, that way we would have a mailing list at least to start the discussion of forming a suburban water co-operative. But at least I now know how many there are, 125. The following quote is from an article on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's website. "The City of Chicago serves 125 suburban communities in addition to its own residents for a total population served of over 5.4 million people living in five counties." Full article here: http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/moving-forward/livable-communities-in-detail/-/asset_publisher/Q4En/blog/facing-up-to-the-need-for-investment-in-water-infrastructure/276584?isMovingForward=1
Darryl Kowalewski January 26, 2012 at 08:55 PM
At the end of my initial post I mentioned the cities getting together to form a co-operative in order to have more leverage over Chicago, and after thinking about it a little more, I realize that is most likely not a viable option. If they were to come to their senses and form a co-opertive, they would most likely have to cut off their pipes from Chicago, and build new "cribs" of their own to get Lake Michigan water independent of Chicago.
Tom S January 26, 2012 at 09:18 PM
There was an article written by ABC's Charles Thomas in which it states: "Nearly half of the cost will be borne by suburbanites...replacing Chicago's Water system, updating its pumping stations, updating its streets and its pavements," said Mayor Emanuel. The total project cost for Chicago's upgrade is $2.8 billion. I wonder why the burb's should have to pay for anything other than the equipment and pipes Chicago uses to move the water past the city's limits. The full ABC article is here: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=8392533
Darryl Kowalewski January 26, 2012 at 10:05 PM
I also need another question to be answered definitively. Does this rate increase that Oak Forest just passed simply deal with the 25% increase for 2012, or did it also address the additional 52% increase that will be phased in over the next three years? Yes, 52% additional increase by 1/1/2015. The 25% increase that went into effect on 1/1/2012 increased the price per 1000 gallons of water from $2.01 --> $2.51. The price per 1000 gallons on 1/1/2015 will be $3.82, a 52% increase from 2012's rate of $2.51. It WILL be, the city already passed the legislation..... So I need a clarification, because in this article it is stated "The lone dissenter against the hike—which is the result of a 25 percent increase in water supply costs enacted by the city of Chicago...", which implies that the sole reason for Oak Forest's hike was simply to deal with this years 25% hike by the City of Chicago, and does not address the 52% increase coming over the next 3 years...
Lauren Traut (Editor) January 26, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Hi, Darryl. This addresses only the current increase from the City of Chicago—not the additional increases yet to come. Finance Director Colleen Julian said she will evaluate the situation one year at a time. Does that help? Lauren
Darryl Kowalewski January 27, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Yes Lauren, it does help, thank you! Now, another question, how is our water contract with Oak Lawn written? Is it for a specific amount for a specific time no matter what Chicago does with their rates, or does it contain a provision to automatically pass through Chicago's rate increases to the suburbs it supplies water to? Based on this recent action by Oak Forest, it appears that any Chicago increases are passed directly through to us, considering that is the reasoning being presented for the increase. If that is indeed the case, prepare for the water portion of your bill to go up an additional total of $1.31 per unit (1000 gallons) 3 years from now, because it will. The current increase of $1 added to the coming increases totaling $1.31 means your per unit rate will have gone up $2.31. Considering our current rate is $5.02, that is an increase of nearly 50% (46%) in just 3 years.
Darryl Kowalewski January 27, 2012 at 01:44 AM
How nice of them to spread it out over 4 years so you don't notice it if you're not paying attention. No guts I tell ya. Here's the next thing I want to know related to all of this, How is it that Chicago was charging it's residents $2.01 per thousand gallons for water last year, and Oak Forest was charging it's residents $5.02 per thousand gallons last year? Here's my answer, we (The 125 suburbs that get our water from Chicago) are subsidizing Chicago. It is blatantly obvious now, that Chicago does not support the infrastructure outside of their boundaries, so every dollar they charge us is straight profit. That is why their argument is ridiculous that their increases have to be the same across the board for the City and the suburbs, because they are not providing the same services to the suburbs as they they do the city.
Darryl Kowalewski January 27, 2012 at 01:50 AM
The suburbs need to form their own coalition, co-op, whatever you want to call it, and start getting our own water. With the savings from what Chicago is charging us, every suburb could have brand new water & sewer pipes, while at the same time reducing their residents rates. Now THAT'S what I call a solution. Even the threat of that should get Chicago to cover the repairs for the suburbs infrastructure, but honestly it would be better for all residents to stick to it and bypass them completely.
Tom S January 27, 2012 at 03:45 AM
What it looks to me is that Chicago is now charging Oak Lawn $2.51/1K gal. Oak Lawn adds $0.03/1K gal and distributes the water to a number of other burbs incl Oak Forest, TP, OP, New Lenox and others. Here is another bit of info: Oak Lawn is planning a $100 million water infrastructure upgrade which will be paid for by Oak Lawn and the burbs that they deliver to. I don't know if this has been taken into account by Oak Forest's new water rates.
Darryl Kowalewski January 27, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Ok, that really doesn't make me feel any better, because from what you said, that means Oak Lawn is charging Oak Forest $2.54, But Oak Forest is charging its residents $6.02. Do you have a link to that information?
Darryl Kowalewski January 27, 2012 at 04:07 AM
If the $.50 additional increase by Oak Forest in addition to the $.50 increase by Chicago was in fact all passed along to Oak Lawn for the $100,000,000 infrastructure improvement, and that same additional $.50 was passed on to all 321,000 residents that Oak Lawn provides water to (http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/6622548-418/oak-lawn-negotiates-new-water-contracts.html) It should be completely paid off within four years using my last quarterly bill as the multiplier. Alas it currently remains another question to add to the list.
Tom S January 27, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Edit: Oak Lawn charges $0.04/1k gal Here is the link to the info: http://tinleypark.patch.com/articles/the-rise-in-tinley-park-s-water-rates-flow-from-chicago-price-hike
chuck toland January 27, 2012 at 04:51 PM
These are all excellent questions and issues I have been dealing with for 3-years now. Some of the ideas have been dealt with at length, and instead of wasting a lot of time finding old facts, you can call Colleen Julian at city hall, and she can forward all the answers to these questions to you. You would not have to FOI it, as we are willing to educate anyone on these issues that want the asswers we wanted prior to the increase. Feel free to call me at my office, and I can give you some of the asnwers as well. Chuck 708-671-5400
Richard D. Nowak January 31, 2012 at 05:23 AM
To play devil's advocate here, isn't it amazing that you can walk to your sink, turn a spigot and clean, potable water comes out? Or flush your toilet and whoosh it's gone?Now, this by no means agrees nor disagrees with the actions of the City of Chicago and Oak Forest in regard to water rates. I'm just making the observation that a civilization can be judged by its water and sewer system. By the way, my answer to the continuing rise in rates is simple: I refuse to water what is left of my lawn and have covered as much of my property in wood chips, rocks and native vegetation as possible. Then install a rain catcher system to provide water for the indoor plants and other uses. The natural landscaping saves money and also promotes bio-diversity which is good for the environment.
Josh Dinzmore January 31, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Get a copy of the Crestwood adviser they have all the surrounding towns Water rates in there. Its probably an oct. or nov. issue if i remember correctly.
Darryl Kowalewski January 31, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Thanks Josh, I'll check that out.
Darryl Kowalewski January 31, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Thanks Chuck for pointing me in the right direction. Over the next year I will be pulling info together to see what needs to be done to get the suburbs rate down to or below what the city's rate is. It's just not fair that a resident of Oak Forest or Tinley or any other suburb for that matter has to pay more than double what a resident of Chicago has to pay for water that comes from the same source. In fact we could probably get some other cities involved that do not currently have access to Lake Michigan water, to help spread out the infrastructure costs. I'll keep everyone updated as things progress, and if you want to help, let me know.
Michael M. March 21, 2012 at 02:09 AM
The funny thing is that the electrical aggregation referendum passed tonight. Wait until they start adding fees to that. And do not think they wont, there is a provision that allows the city to collect a fee. For now the city has decided not to collect a fee, but they will.

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