Some business owners and residents in Galena have noticed a big increase in their sewer/water bills and they are concerned about the increase.
In 1989, a sewer treatment plant was built, but that facility sat below a flood plain and was not removing enough phosphorus from the water. The Department of Natural Resources told city leaders that they would have to raise the facility above the flood and put in new equipment to meet standards.
In 2007 city leaders asked voters to approve a $500,000 bond measure to upgrade the waste water treatment plant. That measure passed and, over the years city leaders have taken out three loans with the USDA. Two were for sewer upgrades and the other earmarked for water maintenance.
In 2012, the city took out a half million dollar loan with the federal agency to make bring the facility up to standard. For the first year the city only had to pay the interest on the loan but now with the first payment due, the city has increased sewer rates.
One business owner's bill rose by 118% and the county's bill increased dramatically, something not planned or budgeted for in the current budget.
The city posted agendas (5-1; 5-18 and the final reading 6-4) three times recently to discuss the increase regarding the sewer rates and no citizens or business owners showed up at any of the posted meetings, according to North 1 Alderman Jonh Coones.
"We just completed a half million dollars of improvements that was voted in by the voters," said Coones. "In layman's terms, we have bills and a mortgage."
"The first sewer loan, which was for the installation of the sewer treatment facility in 1989, will be paid off in 2025, according to City Clerk Lisa Chambers. The second sewer loan, which was for the upgrades to the treatment facility in 2012, will be paid off in 2046.
The final year of the water loan, which was used to install a new water tank and upgrade water lines throughout town, is scheduled to be paid off in 2037.
"I'm concerned for our budget, but I have empathy for their predicament," said Presiding Commissioner Dennis Wood. "They have to maintain services and equipment, but it appears that the increase will exceed what we had budgeted."
Even with the $10 average increase per month for residential customers and the dramatic increase for business owners the city is projected to only make a profit of just over $5,000 for water/sewer services this year.
Public meetings about a proposed water increase are being scheduled.