MOUNT AYR — An update on the possibility of bringing water and sewer to Mt. Ayr was heard at the town’s regular monthly meeting Nov. 4.
Tim Drenth representing both the Newton County Commissioners and the Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District informed the town council that if he has his way the county will help pay for the project.
“This all started four years ago,” said Drenth. “There was a house in town that had an issue getting financed because it was not hooked up to water and sewer. I saw there was a need here.”
Mt. Ayr looked into bringing water and sewer into town several years ago but the issue was dropped after the preliminary engineering estimates came back higher than expected.
According to that preliminary report, estimated construction costs for drinking water in Mt. Ayr were between $2.25 million and $2.98 million, while the sewer project would have run between $3.35 million and $4.08 million.
The town council said there is $410,000 of funds set aside for any water and sewer improvements, but also said that nothing has been decided yet.
Mt. Ayr also received $200,000 from the estate of Helen R. Kraud specifically for water and/or sewer system upgrades. There is a contingency, however, the money has to be used within five years or the town forfeits the funds. It has been 10 months since her death.
“The town can hook up to the system at the landfill, it can handle it,” said Drenth. “I would like to have the county pay for the line from the landfill to the town to help offset the costs for Mt. Ayr. If you do sewer you might as well do water too.”
Drenth did go on to say that he is just one vote and the project would have to go through and be approved by four different boards — Mt. Ayr Town Council, Newton County Commissioners, Newton County Council, and the Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District.
“I had support for this project from county leaders years ago but we will have to start over, there are some new elected officials,” said Drenth. “(If approved) I suggest you put the infrastructure in and then hand it over to the district (Newton County Regional Water and Sewer District) to handle all of the maintenance and billing. If I was a town board, I wouldn’t want to start my own utilities.”
There were some concerns brought up on the issue for the 46 homes in town that all currently use well water and septic tanks.
“Who has to pay for running the line to the home and the disconnection from the well,” asked Mt. Ayr resident Rick Hoaks. “That can be pretty expensive. I moved here because I don’t have a water and sewer bill. Not everyone here can pay for the hookups. What will we have to do with our septic tanks; who will have to pay for that? Will we be forced to tap in?”
Drenth answered saying a lot of those issues will have to be decided by the town and the district just wants to run an outlet for the town to hook up to if they choose.
“We won’t make anyone hookup,” said Drenth. “The septic tanks will need to be filled in but there is a lot that still needs to be worked out. We have no intention of getting rich off the Town of Mt. Ayr.”
“Yeah everything needs to be worked out and it will be worked out of our pockets,” replied Hoaks.
Some residents believe it is inevitable that the town will need to be hooked up to water and sewer.
“We have to do something,” said Mt. Ayr resident Andrea Bales. “The state will eventually come in and make us do it.”
Mt. Ayr Town Attorney Rebecca Goddard suggested working with Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission (KIRPC) to start looking at possible grants the town could apply for.