Flood of comments on sewer hike in GTH

Holly Richrath

The Germantown Hills Village Board Thursday evening approved a nearly 17 percent sewer rate increase for the village by a vote of 4 to 1.

“With the projects that we would like to schedule, it was recommended and voted upon by the sewer committee that we raise the sewer rate by an average of $7.25 for this year,” said Trustee Brian Wysocki.

The projects include making major repairs to the village’s main trunk line, repairing sewer lining at Whispering Oaks subdivision and conducting a facility plan.

Superintendent of public works Rich Brecklin said it is important to make the repairs in a timely matter, so issues do not become worse  and more expensive to fix.

Trustee John Ford questioned the “extremely high” increase and cast the sole no vote.

“I have a problem with that type of increase due to the amount of it,” Ford said. “To some people, $7.25 a month is going to make a major impact on their income.”

Ford recommended and made a motion to spread the increase over two years and raise rates by $3.50 or $3.75 this year. The motion died, due to lack of a second.

Trustee Greg Falada defended the increase, adding that sewer rates have risen by only 4.25 percent over the past 17 years. There was no increase at all in 2004, 2005, 2006 or 2009.

“We decided we didn’t need to raise the sewer rates at that time,”  said Ford, who has served on the board from 1991 to 2003 and 2006 to the present time. “We had enough reserve and the way the system was running, we decided we didn’t need to inconvenience the residents by raising the rates.”

“Maybe if we had raised it a dollar a year back then, we wouldn’t be talking about $7.25 now,” Falada responded.

Ford argued that the $200,000 currently in the sewer fund plus a $3.50 rate increase would cover the $70,000 per year note that would be borrowed by the village. He suggested taking $35,000 from the sewer reserve and increasing the sewer rates by the “more palatable” rate, with another rate increase next year.

“I’m not saying we don’t need to fix it,” Ford said. “I’m saying we have the money right now, with a $3.50 or $3.75 increase. We could do all of this and not put that much of a burden on the residents.”

Wysocki said he thinks the village should not depend on the reserve fund, which is meant “for something catastrophic, that is unplanned.”

“This is something that we are planning, so I don’t feel that it’s right to take from a fund like that at this time.”

Ford also asked that the rate increase be tabled until village officials find out if the village is eligible for grant money to be used toward the project.

Wysocki said that the rate could always be decreased if grant money was realized.

In other business, the board:

• Heard from Tamara Watts, owner of Germantown Grille and the Liquor Shoppe, who requested a time change be made allowing local liquor license holders the ability to start selling alcohol at 6 a.m. on Sundays, instead of 11 a.m.

“Peoria and Peoria Heights are 6 a.m., so we lost a lot during the summer, spring and fall from the boaters, campers and RV’ers, who hit the other side of the river early for their purchases,” she said.

She added that it would also give her and other restaurant owners the ability to be open for breakfast on Sundays.

The board was scheduled to hold a special meeting Monday, where board members said they expected to amend the liquor license to allow for alcohol to be sold at 6 a.m. on Sundays. More information on the meeting, which was held after press time, can be found at woodfordtimes.com.

• Appointed Ron Schneider and reappointed Steve Trower to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Schneider will replace Glen Bennett, who resigned due to a move out of state.