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Flossmoor Considers Water System Repair Financing Options

Repairing a crucial portion of the village water mains is necessary, according to the village board, but doing so might come at a cost to residents.

“It needs to be done,” was the phrase uttered over and over by village trustees and Mayor Paul Braun alike during the Aug. 6 Village Board meeting. All village officials formerly agreed during a March meeting that Flossmoor’s water system is in dire need of repair, but how to finance it is what’s in question. 

According to Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel, a 2004 village water study conducted by a private engineering firm in conjunction with public works data resulted in a plan to replace the worst water main in the system via a three-phase program over the course of eight years. The plan intends to repair 10.8 percent of the entire system, 18 percent of the most problematic water main. This project comes with a $7.3 million price tag, and further work is needed beyond this, Wachtel says, as there have been no major water system improvements made in the past two decades. At the current rate, the village is only billing 62.5 percent of the water they purchase, which means about one of every three gallons of water is lost. 90 percent is the ideal billed to purchase rate, according to a memo from Wachtel. The inefficiencies have resulted in a loss of roughly $320,000 over the past year. Additionally, the 25 or so average number of breaks per year is costing the village nearly $100,000 annually.

Will spending roughly $7 million on fixing just over ten percent of the system make an impact, though?

“We’re hopeful, if we’re targeting our most problematic (water) main, that we will get the most bang for our buck,” Wachtel said.

Funding

A general obligation (G.O.) bond is the best option to fund the project, according to Wachtel, considering there is not enough cash in the Water Sewer fund. Securing a G.O. bond is no easy task, though. Much like the recent electrical aggregation decision, the village will have to go to referendum to get a G.O. bond. This means residents will have to vote in favor of absorbing some of the impact. Wachtel’s memo estimates taxpayers having to pay an increase of $107.47 for a $200,000 home, $167.25 for a $300,000 home and $286.80 for a $500,000 home, should the referendum pass. Since this is dealing with property tax money, the increase will be tax deductable.

Anticipating pushback from residents during a difficult economy, Wachtel reminded the board of recent governmental efforts to ease financial stress on residents. This includes refinancing library construction bonds to save a total of $265,169 directly on tax bills as well as the recent electrical aggregation purchases which is saving residents an estimated 48 percent in supply costs.

Still, Mayor Paul Braun acknowledged the hardships many residents are facing. He says a comprehensive and intense educational initiative is in store should the village attempt to meet the Aug. 20 deadline for submitting referenda questions.

“This is a very difficult economic climate and our intention is not to burden (residents) any more,” Braun said. “This is going to take a monumental effort on our part to educate residents why we think this is necessary. (Water) is our core service.”

Trustee James Wilder is optimistic that the board is handling the situation as delicately as possible, all things considered.

“I think this is more transparent,” Wilder said. “It gives residents a chance to make a decision.”

The board will likely be voting on whether to go to referendum during the next village board meeting.

Would you be willing to pay higher property taxes to help fund the water system repairs? Tell us in the comments.

Alice and Jeff Miller August 07, 2012 at 01:52 PM
With all of his valuable "face-time," Paul Braun must be considered a leading candidate for higher office! He's doing a great job and it should be recognized and appreciated by all!
Sue Bertram August 07, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I am having trouble understanding how a 2004 study that deals with major infrastructure needs is just now being addressed. Were these needs included in any of the 2005-2012 planning and budgeting strategies? Is there anything that resembles a Long Range or 5 Year Plan for the Village? I am at a loss at how our Village can have a water system that has not had major upkeep (per the above article) for 2 decades and how a the recommendations of 2004 study are just now being addressed. Have any monies been set aside to deal with this long known problem over the past 8 years?
Pallas Bowers August 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
It's my understanding that approximately a little over 1 million dollars are in the coffers for water/sewer issues, but remediation will cost approx 8 million. I'd like to see close to 2 million of this generated in the form of grants, subsidies and outside funds.
Flossmoor Family August 07, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Could not have described it better myself Alice and Jeff. "Face-time" is about all that has happened thus far. Actions speak louder than words. Transparency seems to be coming out of the village hall closet though via open forums such as the H-F patch. Many of us are looking forward to a hard hitting interview with the mayor.
Juvenal August 07, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Um, what, exactly, has he personally done? More business in town to lower tax burder? No Higher Sewer and water fees? YES! Reduced payroll or benefit/pension costs? No Reduced Crime rates? Emphatic NO Increased Police patrols? NO Higher property taxes forthcoming? YES! Move proactively to minimize impact of foreclosures on surrounding homeowners? NO Improved Quality of Life for residents since become Mayor? Decide for Yourself....
Flossmoor Family August 07, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Geez Sue, are you looking for a miracles or something? Flossmoor's last Comprehensive Plan (a whopping 19 double-spaced pages to digest) was just adopted on February 3, 1986!
Timijanel Boyd Odom August 07, 2012 at 11:16 PM
It's time to ACT! 2004! Seriously? I agree with Pallas Bowers
Jack August 08, 2012 at 08:00 AM
It doesn't have to be replaced, but there are methods that can renew the exisiting structure for over 20 years which might save the village a considerable amount of cash.
FlossmoorMom August 08, 2012 at 07:48 PM
On a side note, does anyone know why the meeting minutes on the village of Flossmoor's website are always so delayed? They haven't posted since June...
Flossmoor Family August 09, 2012 at 01:54 AM
FlossmoorMom you might want to ask the mayor if staff and/or elected are to allowed review and/or partake in any editing of the village clerk's actual meeting minute’s transcript before it is published, if so, how much? Who decides what? Maybe that’s the reason behind ”minute tardiness.” Flossmoor’s board’s and commission’s published minutes seem to pale when compared to the concise minutes kept by the HF Park District and our local school district’s board meetings. It's easy to form your own opinion by comparing them on their respective websites. Tony B is also correct that other pertinent minutes appear to be MIA as anyone could witness at the village’s own website (for example ZBA minutes last post 5/24/11).
flossmoor_resident August 09, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Just what does our tax money go towards if we are having to pay more because of these sewer issues? A year ago I was looking at houses in Homewood and Flossmoor... the taxes in Flossmoor were double the taxes of Homewood. What does all of this money go towards? I personally don't have storm sewer drains on my street... the water runs down a ditch in my side yard and backyard. We don't have street lights, our parkway (which the village maintains) is over run with weeds. I am just not seeing the benefit to all these higher taxes if they are expected to go up even more.
Juvenal August 09, 2012 at 10:20 AM
My understanding of the parkway deal is that the Village is responsible for maintaining trees but not the grass; everyone I know in Flossmoor mows/weeds/fertilizes the parkways in front of their homes like the rest of their lawn. Taxes are so much higher because Flossmoor has no large business tax base like Homewood's Halsted corridor so the burden falls to homeowners.

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