Ordinance Proposing Water Rate Increase Introduced at North Judson Town Council Meeting

An ordinance proposing a 15 percent rate adjustment to water utility bills in North Judson was introduced at this week’s town council meeting.

Eric Walsh from Umbaugh and Associates informed council members and meeting attendees that the bump would result in a customer who uses an average of 4,000 gallons per billing cycle seeing an additional charge of approximately $4.00 while residents who utilize a minimal amount of water each month would pay about $3.40 more.

The rate increase is associated with the town’s water system improvement project.

As a reminder, that project includes the rehabilitation the town’s water towers to bring them up to OSHA standards, adding a backup generator for the water system to address an IDEM requirement, upgrading the existing well pumps and adding another well.

The cost for that work will be covered by a combination of grant funds as well as money from a State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan.

Walsh explained, “You adjusted rates last year in anticipation but when you adjusted those rates, remember, we said this doesn’t take you all the way to it but it gets you a lot closer than you were at that point.”

While the first phase included both utilities, only water bills will be impacted with this proposal.

The rate increases to sewer and water utilities last year has helped the Town replenish funds, as rates had not be raised for nearly 10 years. Prior to that adjustment, officials had to dip into reserves to cover the operation costs.

In order to meet the revenue requirements to have enough for future system maintenance and operation as well as the water project’s associated financial obligations, another increase is needed.

The figure provided isn’t officially set at this point. Walsh said officials are waiting until the project is bid out before they finalize anything.

He did note that the rate is based on engineers’ estimates. It also includes a bit of a buffer because while it could be lowered, the rate can’t be increased once the ordinance is introduced.

Councilwoman Jane Ellen Felchuck asked if rates will need to be raised again after this second phase.

Walsh remarked that barring any other major long-term operation costs coming to light, the Town shouldn’t need to raise them significantly anytime soon.

However, he noted that it’s important to monitor things and make adjustments as needs fluctuate.

Councilman John Rowe added that the second proposed increase seemed a little higher than he remembered.

Walsh explained that it is slightly more due to the SRF Loan. When the Town applied for those funds, they didn’t make the cut for the specific round they were applying for.

Walsh said the Town still had an opportunity to pay for the water project from a different pool of funds.

When the amount was initially predicted, officials were utilizing the expected rate of 2 percent. It had to be changed once the Town entered this separate category where the applied interest rate is a little over 3 percent.

Walsh said that while that is higher, it’s still significantly less than what one would get outside of the SRF program.

The document was only introduced to the council during Monday’s meeting so no official actions had to be taken.

The water rate ordinance will be considered on first reading once a public hearing is held in November.

Walsh said he will coordinate with Clerk-Treasurer Andrew Rowe about the specifics for the hearing. That information will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.

The full presentation from Monday’s meeting will be featured during this week’s Kankakee Valley Viewpoint program which airs every Sunday at noon here on K99.3.