Schram City Discusses Water Main Replacement

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The Schram City Village Board meeting held Monday evening, May 13, began with the installation of board members Pat Rhodes, Earl Eller and Kevin Tuetken, who were re-elected following the April consolidated election. Village Clerk Janet Stewart administered the oath to the three trustees for four-year terms.

During the Community Development Block Grant update, President Albert Oberle told members of the board he received an intergovernmental agreement for the grant through DCEO, totaling $500,000.The village is currently waiting for completed paperwork in order to receive funds. The grant will benefit improvements to the sanitary sewer system by replacing lift stations. Oberle said he's hopeful that the village can sell spare pumps that will not be needed back to Illinois Electric, who can resell them to other customers. 

A lengthy discussion on existing cast iron pipes ruled the majority of the meeting as Oberle presented IEPA project planning for a proposed water main replacement, and gave board members a map of the lines that need replaced. The replacement includes 24,500 feet of pipe and will cost the village about $1,486,420 to complete.

"I don't like spending people's money," said Oberle. "I want to see the village out of debt and that's what we've been striving and working for, but at the same time, this is a great opportunity for us to fix all these issues."

This year, the IEPA is offering a loan program of 1 percent to all municipalities with a population less than 5,000. Along with the IEPA loan, Oberle said the village can apply for an additional grant through DCEO to help fund the replacement. Applications for the IEPA loan program and the grant will need to be submitted by September and a contract would be established with Brown and Roberts, Inc. within the next few months.

While Trustee Tuetken stated that the low percentage rate opportunity is rare, Trustee Eller voiced his concerns with the costly project.

"I have major concerns with the amount of money to pay back on a yearly basis," said Eller. "We can only raise water bills so much."

Oberle said there are still concerns such as how to pay for the loan and if water rates will need to be increased. Residents will most likely see an increase anyway, as the village negotiates a new contract for water with the city of Hillsboro.

Tuetken asked how long it will take to begin the project with Oberle saying they could possibly receive funding next year. Oberle advised that Jim Brown of Brown and Roberts, Inc. estimated the project could take up to three years to complete.  As they replace water lines, Oberle said the village is also hoping to repair the streets.

If the board chose to do the work in phases, the project could take up to six years to complete and the loan percentage will be higher. 

Rhodes questioned how much the village would raise water and sewer rates, but the amount was uncertain as Oberle received word of the loan program just before the meeting. However, he advised that if the village did not get the DCEO grant funding and borrowed the full amount, it would cost the village approximately $7,679 a month to pay back the debt. The village would ask for $7 more per month from its customers, but if they did receive the grant funding, those numbers would decrease.

"We won't know this stuff until we apply for it (the grant) and see what we can get," said Oberle. "If at that point in time we thought it was too costly of a project, we would probably back out or decide to do it in phases."

He added, "It is a good opportunity to go after the 1 percent. We have to do it sooner rather than later or we can kick the can down the road and let somebody else do it."

The village is hopeful that once the lift stations are fixed, most of the sewer issues will be resolved and they can lower sewer rates.

"It's so important though, if we don't get this stuff done, then the municipality will continue to deteriorate," said Oberle.

Oberle added that he will speak with Brown on which path the village should take and voice the board's concerns.

After spending nearly a half an hour in closed session, trustees agreed to a one-year contract with Constellation for the village's electric for the five pumping stations and a one-year contract with Roger Fath as the water treatment operator at no extra cost.

In other news, the board motioned to approve the employee health insurance policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Oberle said the only increase will be employee premiums at 4.7 percent.

Established by village trustees in 2014, the five-year plan nicknamed "2020 Vision" was reviewed, including accomplishments they've made in the past six years and a list of projects that still need to be completed.

During area reports, each trustee addressed their concerns of junk, standing water, fencing and a stop sign. They also reported on several derelict vehicles. Rhodes asked Oberle if the village received any bids on purchasing a tractor and Oberle said he received a few costly options, but the village will wait until a good, used tractor becomes available.

Next month's meeting will be held Monday, June 10, at the Schram City Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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