Education Campaign for Village of South Jacksonville Ahead of Vote on Water Rate Increase

By Benjamin Cox on March 6, 2023 at 5:51pm

The Village of South Jacksonville is going to wait before they decide to raise water rates on their customers. According to Village President Dick Samples the rate hike is coming – it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ at this point.

Members of the Village Board of Trustees decided to table the rate increase on Thursday so more discussion and more input from the community could be heard. The proposal is to raise the minimum charge to $11 per 1,000 gallon unit of usage, with a minimum of 2,000 gallons of usage for a basic charge of $22. Additional usage would be billed at $8 per 1,000 gallons of usage or fractional part thereof, according to the proposal on Thursday night. The new billing would have started on April 1st. This would be the first phase of a billing increase over time. Sewer rates would remain the same. According to village officials, the Village’s water utility has under-billed customers for a lengthy amount of time, including those along the village’s transmission line in Scott County.

Samples said after the vote on Thursday, he wants to hear more from the public and he’s also going to village water customers why the large rate increase is coming: “The next step in [this process] is we will be sending a letter out to every resident in South Jacksonville telling them more in detail as to why we are [increasing the rates], why we need to. Hopefully at the next meeting there will be more than 2 people to show up. I think there is so many people that have questions or that know this needs to be done and they didn’t come to this meeting.”

Meanwhile, the city continues to work through issues with the water billing system as well as with the utility itself. Members of the village’s billing system company Locus were at Village Hall in the last two weeks working with village employees on updates to the system as well as working on ways to improve the overall billing system to make it operate correctly and more efficiently. Samples says the village Utility Department is currently dealing with problems with a small number of water meters that either aren’t providing correct readings or even giving readings at all: “The main problem is that we have 250 antennas that’s not reading right, and most of them all quit working on the same day. There is some kind of reason somewhere why they all quit. Somebody, to me, programmed that series of those (because they are numbered) to quit and they did.”

Samples informed the Village Board on Thursday that the municipality is paying around $7,000 for a representative of a company from up north will be coming down to the Village’s softener plant to help get it in operation for a better quality of water. Samples says he doesn’t know why the softener plant wasn’t ever brought online after improvements a short number of years ago: “I believe it was 5-6-7 years ago that it was all redone and all that, nothing has been done since then. This is a problem we inherited and we’re going to get this fixed. He’s going to come down and show us what we need to get it done. He will show us how to operate it, too if it’s a matter of being able to turn it on. I look for him to have to come back. I would almost guarantee that we’re probably going to spend $25,000 on this before it’s over with. It has new lines, new pumps, and a new computer in there but why it was never used, I can’t tell you.”

Samples says that village can’t produce water for its customers for what the village was charging to make it and keep the water system maintained. He says that the lengthy stay that the village had on the City of Jacksonville’s water system over the winter while the village fixed operations at their Oxville water plant laid bare the need to increase revenues for the utility. Samples says the water rate increases brings the village in line with what other municipalities do to build in ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs into their overall water rates. Samples says that South Jacksonville hasn’t raised water rates on customers since 2004.