Aldermen to vote on water and garbage fee hikes

Getting the big trash cart on the left emptied will cost more soon.

Evanston's City Council is scheduled to vote Monday night on a sanitation fee increase and 10 percent water rate increase recommended by city staff.

In addition to raising the water rate by 10 percent this year, staff also recommends raising the rate by 10 percent for the two following years, adding up to a total 33 percent rate increase over three years, according to a memo from staff to City Council.

The rate increase received little comment from council members at the last regularly scheduled meeting.

The average single family home that uses 115 units of water every year will see their bill increase by about $19 in 2014, says Utilities Director Dave Stoneback.

Though the water rate was not increased between 1998 and 2010, sewer rates skyrocketed in order to fund sewer system improvements, which resulted in reduced basement flooding in the city. The last hike in sewer rates was effected in 2004.

The proposed 2014 water rate increase will generate about $500,000 more in revenue, which would aid in creating a more sustainable capital improvement fund and reduce the city's dependence on bond funds, staff wrote.

But further investment is needed to either rehabilitate or replace the city's five million gallon reservoir south of the treatment plant and the feeder main between the pumping station and downtown. To help fund this work, staff also recommends an additional 10 percent rate increase in both 2015 and 2016.

Staff also recommends the council authorize seeking a loan of up to 2.3 million from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for work related to the water plant intake pipes in Lake Michigan.

According to a memo to the council, installation of a heating system is needed on one of the facility's three intake pipes to mitigate effects of frazil ice -- which can block water intake under certain weather conditions.

Repairs to the intake's mussel control system is also recommended as part of the project.

Introduced at the last City Council meeting, a sanitation fee increase is also up for a vote Monday night. Like the water rate increase, it elicited little discussion at the last meeting.

City staff is recommending the monthly fee for a 95 gallon container be raised by $3 from $14.95 to $17.95.

But residents with 65 gallon containers will not be affected by the proposed increase, and will continue to be charged $7.95 per month, staff wrote in a memo to the council.

The cost difference between the two containers was adopted in 2010 as an incentive to reduce the amount of trash city residents generate, according to the memo.

And city staff say it's working; less refuse has been generated in the last three years.

If residents want to avoid the additional $3 charge, staff wrote that they should consider downsizing to the 65 gallon containers.

Comments

Economics of water delivery

One thing to note here is for Evanston, almost all of the costs for water/sewer are fixed. They are the salaries and infrastructure maintenance. The cost difference for pumping more or less water is very little. So the issue becomes, the less water we use, the more we pay for each gallon. It is the opposite for what happens when we demand less fossil fuel, where the price then drops. So as much as rain barrels and water conservation seem ideal, in reality they drive up the rates because the total sum of money needed to run the department does not go down.

Why didn't they hike the yard waste fee?

The yard waste fee does not cover all of the costs to the city associated with disposing yard waste. They have to supplement the budget with money from the general fund. So we have a situation where we are subsidizing an environmentally-costly activity which is ridiculous.

Mulched leaves help soil fertility and have no detrimental impact on lawns. In fact, they obviate the need for herbicides (which negatively impact the water supply). Leaves can also be composted on-site and the resultant compost can be used to amend soil conditions in garden beds. You can also save mulched leaves over the winter and use them in the spring for garden beds to reduce weeds.

Instead we have a situation where the city PAYS PEOPLE for the privilege of hauling yard waste away.

Typical Evanston reckless spending.

Yard Waste Bin

I believe the annual charge for using the waste bin went from $25.00 to $50.00. They also charge for the stickers that need to be used on the bags for yard waste should you need them.

The yard waste fees don't even come close to covering costs

There is a charge from the city. But the charge doesn't cover the expenses necessary to get rid of the waste. About $220,000 is brought from fees in while it costs around $750,000 to get rid of. Even if the fee had been adjusted, there still would have been a massive subsidy.

The fact that council didn't even try to make the situation more equitable by charging a little bit more is crazy.

Bad estimate by staff

Remember city staff estimated they would sell $900,000 of yard waste stickers never happened, this was done so the city would not have had to privatize the complete waste disposal operation. You can thank the current director for what happen.