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Marengo cuts sewer rates temporarily

MARENGO – Residents and small businesses soon will see cheaper wastewater bills. The City Council on Monday unanimously approved a temporary rate cut while work is suspended on expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Council members last year doubled sewer rates for residential and commercial users to pay for Marengo’s $12 million wastewater plant upgrade northeast of the existing plant along Route 23 near the Kishwaukee River.

But the city halted construction last month after officials were advised that a buried landfill on site would add cost to the project.

Expansion of the wastewater treatment plant is expected to be delayed at least a year and loan repayment to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency won’t start until construction is finished.

Consequently, the council cut sewer rates nearly in half for at least 18 months.

“While the council didn’t completely eradicate the increase, they certainly took a big chunk of it away,” City Manager Gary Boden said.

The rate cut affects residential and small-business users differently. The rate that was increased to $6.74 per 1,000 gallons consumed a quarter, now stands at $5.30 per 1,000 gallons for residents and small businesses.

The city also had charged various flat rates on top of the consumption charges. The flat rate for residents – originally $9.57 per billing quarter – has been eliminated. The $57.36 per quarter flat rate for commercial users has been cut to $25 for businesses that use less than 50,000 gallons.

The city projects that under the rate cut it will take in $376,024 a year in sewer rates, down from a projected $760,973.

The rate increases last year immediately drew groans from both residents and small businesses. At Monday’s meeting, residents wanted to know how those increases were spent before officials stopped construction on the project.

Resident Jim Wicker Sr., said he thought the people’s faith in their local elected officials had been rattled, especially by the doubling of wastewater rates last year for a project that has run into numerous delays.

“I never thought I would see the day where I would take a drink of water, and go to the bathroom, and it would cost me so much money,” Wicker said.

Boden assured residents that the money primarily has been used to pay $400,000 to the project’s designer, McMahon and Associates, and likely will be used to pay $158,000 in minor construction costs to the building firm J.J. Henderson.

The reduced revenue in the meantime will be used to replace a centrifuge in the city’s existing plant. The replacement was needed, regardless of the construction delay, Boden said.

The rate decreases are effective immediately.

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