In Watseka

Taking back the Watseka Water Department duties from a private company continues to be discussed by Watseka officials.

At Tuesday’s special called meeting, the council again voted on a bond and other work related to the endeavor.

Most recently the council has decided to seek a $1.5 million bond, which they say will help pay for some of the work that needs to be done at the wastewater treatment plant, pay for some equipment that will be needed when the city officially takes the department back next year and some proposed projects.

The council voted 6-1, which Alderman Dennis Cahoe voting no and Alderman Dave Mayotte absent, to seek the bond.

The city has also approved a 10 percent rate increase for water utilities that will begin in November.

That increase was approved at the September full council meeting.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor John Allhands asked the aldermen if there was a projection on how much that rate increase would generate.

“Do we have any projections on this November 10 percent water increase out for 12 months and 18 months? I’m saying 18 months because that will be at the year end of the first year when we take this water and sewer back. And then do we have any projects on the May 10 percent rate increase, and that will be 12 months, basically right around when we are taking this back.”

Alderman Brandon Barragree said it would probably total about $200,000.

Allhands said Robinson Engineering has determined the improvements at the wastewater treatment plan should cost about $610,000. That work includes replacing gates, drive units and motors for the oxidation ditch, which could be $275,000, plus a number of projects that cost about $30,000 each or less. Those include replacing a missing sludge pump that transfers digested sludge from the digester to the drying beds for $30,000, replacing the sludge heat exchanger on the digester for $50,000, repairing the splitter box gates for $30,000, a new flow meter for $20,000, a flapper valve/discharge point inside the wet weather pump station for $20,000, repairing influent pumps for $30,000, a cliffier drive unit for $30,000 and new return activated sludge pumps for $20,000 and other items.

Allhands said purchase of equipment is estimated to be about $400,000. This would include trucks, an excavator, a trailer for the equipment, testing equipment and other items that would be needed to run the department.

Allhands said that there are some projects that need to be done for which the other $500,000 could be used.

A number of aldermen noted that while they had at one time discussed erecting a new building for the water department, it has been determined that won’t be necessary for the near future. The public works building could be updated, said Allhands, which would not cost as much. At one time, the estimate for the new building was around $1 million. City officials at that time were entertaining the possibility of taking on a $3 million bond. That has since been revisited.

Alderman Darrin Rushbrook asked if the November rate increase is necessary. “If we are borrowing so much less money, do we really need it?” he asked.

Several aldermen said yes because of the projects that need to be done.

“We are going into winter months and who knows what we are going to find and what is going to break,” Alderman Mark Garfield said.

“Is there a plan to spend down the water and sewer fund?” Cahoe said.

Allhands said no.

“I think that’s exactly the plan,” Cahoe said. “And it will be broke within 12 months if we keep this rate up.”

Cahoe asked how many people had toured the public works building recently. Allhands said he had been to the facility and Garfield said he had been there also.

He said the building needs $120,000 worth of work. “Is that what we want to do?” he asked. He said the roof and windows leak, the building needs new doors and block work needs done.

Garfield said the block building has outlived its usefulness. “That’s what I said from the very beginning,” he said.

Cahoe said a new building is estimated to be about $338,000. That does not include some site work.

Allhands said that the council could borrow $!.5 million and then go to local financial institutions for a loan for the building.

Alderwoman Monna Ulfers said the city does not know for sure what they will get into when they get into the work at the wastewater treatment plant.

Cahoe said he didn’t want to used bond money for equipment because the equipment will be “junk” before the bond is paid for.

Ulfers said, “We need to use our money wisely.”

Allhands said there are some projects that could be done through grants with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the projects that have been done in other communities have been paid for with those grant funds, he said, and then later forgiven and the communities didn’t have to pay it back. All agreed those grants need to be pursued.

The council voted to go with Bernardi Securities for a $1.5 million bond.

“Don’t fogey we’ve still got $400,000 worth of sewer lining that Marvin (public works director DeLahr) that needs to be done and we’ve been ignoring it,” Cahoe said.

After the meeting Cahoe said he has concerns about the bond and the project, which is why he voted no.

“I’m just not comfortable that it’s going to be enough and I’m not sold on all the projects that’s been picked out to go inside the bond,” he said.

“The sewer disposal plant…I hope we can get by with $610,000,” he said. He said there are other projects, like the sewer lining projects that he mentioned, that have been put off for years that also need done.