The City of Winchester is increasing water rates. The increase amounts about to a little less than $10 on the average.
Mayor Rex McIntire says that the increase can be attributed to upcoming maintenance to infrastructure and the need to qualify for loans and grants to make repairs: “We have certain areas and neighborhoods that have old water mains, a lot of them are still old lead mains as I understand. Many of them are undersized. Plus, the fact, we have many water main breaks and leaks quite a bit, which that costs money every time it happens and it creates problems for the customers, too. We are trying to get government grant assistance from the USDA and the Illinois EPA to construct new water mains in these areas. One of the requirements (It doesn’t make a lot of sense) is that we have to have an average monthly water rate of over $40 per customer. Winchester’s is running a little bit below that. That was one of the reasons we were wanting to increase the rates, so we can fall into their qualifications for the grants or low-interest, long-term loans.”
McIntire says that operational costs and expense have increased: “We redid both of our wells in the bottoms within the last few years. It cost $30,000 for each one of them. That’s an ongoing maintenance problem that we have going on down there. You have to do that if you want potable, clean water to come into the city. We’ve had increases in labor costs. We’ve seen increases in materials and fuel. Everything goes to effect the price.”
McIntire says the city hasn’t raised water rates since 2015. McIntire says talks about increase just the water rates began last Fall but the natural gas spike and polar vortex placed those talks on hold while the city dealt with the fallout of the exorbitant natural gas costs to the city. McIntire says it will only make changes to cost of water billing and not sewer.
Other recent changes that the city council made was to the city’s level pay ordinance. McIntire says the level pay rate is the average over a year’s average usage.
He says that Winchester has recently had people move to town who have wanted to get on level pay. McIntire says that the City Council passed a new amendment to the level pay ordinance to help figure their level pay rate: “I told the girls in the front office, let’s just go back the last 3-4 months and get their average cost and put that down as their level pay rate. Actually, it should calculate higher than what they are required to pay year round because you may be looking at some of your highest consumption months – especially if you are looking at the winter or early Spring months where your gas consumption is normally higher. If people would like to go that route, they should be fine. They should have a nice credit at the end of the season in April.”
Another amendment passed at the city’s May 4th meeting that dealt with utility shut-off. It said that all utility services shall be due and payable on the 25th day of the month. If they are not paid by the 25th, a penalty of 10 percent of the amount of the bill will be added to the bill when it is paid. If a customer is late paying their bill three times during any 12-month cycle, the penalty increases to 25 percent of the amount of the bill on top of the amount of the bill. McIntire says that he and the council are tired of people abusing the system and want the public to know that their bill is due every month on time.