Water Quality, Rates Continuing Issues in South Jacksonville

By Jeremy Coumbes on February 20, 2023 at 2:03pm

The price of water service and the quality of the water provided continue to be topics of discussion in the Village of South Jacksonville.

Village President Dick Samples updated the Board of Trustees on the state of the water system during last night’s committee of the whole meeting.

Last month, the board agreed that water and sewer rates would need to go up to help offset the costs of the village’s water system. Samples presented the trustees with an example plan to use as a starting point, similar to billing used in the City of Jacksonville.

Samples says currently the village has no maintenance cushion built into the water department billing to help pay for repairs and general maintenance to the system, thanks in large part to rates that are nearly two decades old.

We’re going to have to increase the water rate from five dollars to eight, or nine or ten dollars per thousand-gallon unit. It hasn’t been raised for 19 years, and we don’t have any provisions written in there and nor do we charge any now for any maintenance to the system. We’ve just been eating them so to speak, so we’ve got to turn this around. We’re not looking for profit, we’re just looking for accountability and how to make it work.”

The rough plan would include a one-time hook-up rate of $8.75, and a 2,000-gallon minimum charge per month. Samples said the increase would be steep if it included a sizable rate increase, and he was not making it a formal proposal, just an example for the trustees.

Trustee Steve Retzer suggested if rates would need to be raised that much, that they should at least be phased in over time, to which Samples agreed. He says some kind of change needs to happen in a hurry, but not at the cost of making a rash decision.

That’s why I wanted all the trustees to know about it, to think about it, and to offer solutions in all of this. Because this is going to be very controversial no matter what we do.”

Samples says this is just a preliminary discussion, and he wants the board to review the information to help come up with ideas to help close the gap without causing sticker shock for village water customers.

Attention then turned to the quality of the water and continued complaints the village has received about how hard the water is since the village treatment plant near Oxville was put back online.

Utility Superintendent Brian English said if the water softening plant located on the grounds below the water tower in the village were up and running, the village’s water would be as good or better than the city’s

Samples says they are still trying to bring in an expert to inspect and then teach the utility department how to use the water softener plant, which in his estimation, hasn’t been used in five to seven years. “It has been all rebuilt as far as we know. All new pumps in there all new lines and everything you could think of but it was never turned on. And why? I don’t know.”

During discussion, trustee Paula Stewart commented that she recently had a resident say that they could deal with rates going up so long as the water quality improved.

Stewart said, “If we’re going to have to raise rates, we should at least offer a better quality product for the money.”