News Column

Some St. Clair Township residents will see sewer bill increase

July 10, 2014

By Jacqueline Lee, Belleville News-Democrat

July 10--Some St. Clair Township residents will pay about $15 or more per month for sewer services starting next year in a new contract with the Village of Swansea.

The increases are a result of negotiations between the township and village -- four years in the making -- on how to fairly divide the cost of a $22 million sewer plant expansion.

About 3,100 of 9,000 township sewer customers will pay for about one-third of the expansion because the township creates about one-third of the sewage that flows into the plant.

Swansea paid for the expansion with a low-interest loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which required the improvements to accommodate population growth. Swansea made the first loan payment about two years ago.

Swansea Mayor Ken Mueller and St. Clair Township Board Supervisor Dave Barnes said they built on the groundwork of the previous administration and worked together to reach an agreement on sewer issues.

Mueller said he didn't see a need to continue the back and forth between the two entities: "It's not a ping pong match."

Barnes said the agreement is a combined effort by both boards.

"We've accomplished what we set out to do when we were elected," Barnes said.

Both the St. Clair Township and Village of Swansea boards have approved the agreement.

The 25-year contract and rate increase is effective March, 1, 2015.

Here are the highlights:

--Billing -- The Village of Swansea will assume billing services for about 3,100 residents who live in St. Clair Township. Township residents should expect a letter in the mail later this year detailing the changes.

--Cost -- The affected St. Clair Township residents will be paying a $32.24 flat fee each month and $3.22 for every additional 100 cubic feet of water usage (or 748 gallons). This amount will help Swansea pay down the loan for the sewer plant expansion.

There will also be a $7.34 flat fee each month. This "township transport fee" will help St. Clair Township pay for ongoing maintenance of its sewer lines that carry waste from the township to the village sewer plant.

In the months leading to the rate increase, township residents will continue to pay a $24.66 minimum fee each month and they are charged $5.07 for every additional 1,000 gallons of water usage. Rates for Swansea residents will remain at a $24.80 flat fee per month and a cost of $2.48 for every additional 100 cubic feet of water usage.

Swansea residents saw a 47 percent increase to their rates in 2008 for the expansion because the IEPA required Swansea residents' rates to cover the cost of the loan.

--Looking ahead -- Mayor Mueller said he does not foresee rate increases for Swansea or St. Clair residents for hopefully the life of the contract, barring any big fixes needed at the new sewer plant.

The upcoming rate increases to township residents and the past increases in Swanesa should cover the cost of the sewer plant expansion, Mueller said.

Any future increases to Swansea residents' rates, however, will cause township residents' rates to go up by 1.3 times that amount, according to the contract.

Supervisor Barnes said the township will evaluate the "township transport fee" every year and modify the fee based on what is in reserves and what repairs are needed.

The township budgeted $125,000 for sewer lines repairs this year.

Barnes said the township also will give Swansea an annual report explaining what work the township has done on its sewer lines.

And, since the township has been charging its residents more since summer 2010 and holding the money until officials reached an agreement with Swansea, Barnes said the township will soon decide how to disburse the money for sewer plant or maintenance needs.

Swansea Village Administrator Lisa Powers said the Swansea and St. Clair board members worked with engineers and attorneys to reach an equitable solution.

"It's based on data," Powers said. "Not political back and forth."

Powers said she will be working to ensure the transition to include billing St. Clair customers as seamless as possible.

Negotiations stalled under previous Swansea Mayor Jim Ra-uckman and previous St. Clair Township Supervisor Tim Buchanan as residents continue to make payments based on a 1995 agreement.

At one point, Swansea hired TischlerBise to do a study on usage and rates after St. Clair Township officials objected in 2010 to pay for one-third of the expansion.

And, Swansea officials filed a notice to cut service to St. Clair Township in 2015 if a new contract was not negotiated by then. Notices of termination have to be filed five years in advance.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at ? or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https: // .


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Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)

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