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City Council to vote on water rate increase

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Evanston's City Council is set to vote Monday night on a ten percent water rate increase recommended by city staff.

Included in a memo sent to the council is a further recommendation to increase the rate an additional 10 percent for the following two years, which compounded adds up to a 33 percent increase over the three years.

If approved, the minimum charge for the first five units of water (one unit equals about 748 gallons) will increase from $6.43 to $7.07, and each additional unit from $1.80 to $1.98, effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Utilities Director Dave Stoneback says the average single family home that uses 115 units of water per year will see their bill increased by about $19.

The water rate was previously increased by 10 percent, 5 percent and 3 percent between 2011 and 2013. It was held steady from 1998 and 2010 while sewer rates soared to fund sewer system improvements that dramatically reduced basement flooding problems in the city. The last of the sewer rate increases went into effect in 2004.

City staff wrote that the increase is needed to generate about $500,000 more in revenue to reduce the city's dependence on bond revenues and to create a more sustainable capital improvement fund.

The additional 10 percent increases in 2015 and 2016 are recommended because "significant investment" is needed to either rehabilitate or replace the city's five million gallon reservoir just south of the treatment plant and the 30-inch diameter feeder main between the pumping station and the downtown area.

It's currently unclear whether the city will decide to rehabilitate or replace the reservoir.

According to the memo, a study of the structure is proposed for 2014, which will include a cost-analysis to determine which method would prove more effective over the long-term.

Either way, it's likely water rates will be affected in 2017 and beyond.

In addition to the rate increase, City Council tonight will also decide whether to hire an engineering consultant to decide what work needs to be done on the city's north and south standpipes or water tanks — which provide anothr 12.5 million gallons of water storage capacity.

Staff recommends the city enter into an agreement with Tank Industry Consultants to determine the scope of the work needed.

Tank Industry Consultants offered the lowest bid at a cost of about $142,000. The total budget for the project is $1.25 million, according to a memo to the council from Stoneback and Superintendent of Construction and Field Services Lara Biggs.

Constructed in 1983 and 1985, the pipes were last painted in 1996 and 1997.

The memo says industry standards recommend the interior of water storage tanks be painted every 10 years, and the exterior every 15, according to the memo. Staff warned that if the work is delayed, potential structural damage could lead to contamination of the water supply and expensive repairs.

In their memo to City Council, staff recommended that work on the south tank start in 2014, with painting of the north one recommended for 2015.

And in other water-related business, city staff also recommended that the council approve seeking a loan of up to $2.3 million from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for improvements to a water plant intake pipes in Lake Michigan.

Specifically, staff recommends the installation of a heating system on one of the facility's three water intakes to mitigate the effects of frazil ice — needle-shaped ice crystals that can block the water intake under certain weather conditions. Repairs to the intake's mussel control system — which manages zebra mussel growth within the intakes — is also included as part of the project.

The 20-year IEPA loans typically carry an interest rate about half that of municipal bonds.

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