US Postal Service Creates Late Fee Dilemma for Mount Carroll
By JOHN HUGGINS | For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – The Mount Carroll city council met for its finance committee meeting at 6:45 pm and its regular meeting at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 with Alderman Mike Risko absent.
The council approved the minutes from the December 23, 2013 meeting and the accounts payable.
Waive Late Fees for January
Hundreds of the post cards for the water bills were late in getting to the Mount Carroll citizens this month. The United States Postal Service sorting facility in Palatine, Illinois returned the bundles of bills that the city had sent out three times.
Mayor Carl Bates stated that he had contacted the Postal Service. He said they told him it was because they would have to slow down their sorting machines so it would not tear the post cards and they did not want to slow them down.
City Clerk Julie Cuckler noted that the same thing happened to Savanna.
The council voted unanimously to waive any late fees for the January bill.
Sewer Fees May Go Up
During the finance committee meeting, Alderman Tom Charles passed out an information sheet regarding the city’s sanitary sewer funds.
Alderman Charles noted this was just a talking point and would be on the January 28 agenda.
The sheet showed that the bio disc upgrade cost approximately $67,600. The city’s sewer fund had to borrow money from the park and cemetery funds to pay for $59,000 of it.
The City upgraded five of the sixteen bio discs at the sewer plant. The city plans to do upgrades of four to six discs every four years.
“The sewer department is not paying its own way,” stated Charles. “Be aware, we haven’t raised sewer rates in a long time. I’m going to propose an increase in fees of $0.50 per 1,000 gallons.”
Mayor Bates discussed the possibility of a capital improvements fee which some communities use to help pay for infrastructure projects. These funds could also be used as a match for grants.
Sewer Lining Grant
Sharon Pepin from Community Funding and Planning Services was at the meeting to discuss the grant the city will be awarded for a sanitary sewer lining project. The grant is a Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
The project is to put a liner inside approximately 3,000 linear feet of sewer mains on Mill Street and Aspen Street. The liners will seal cracks in the sewer and prevent tree roots from breaking through to the sewer.
The estimated cost of the project is $135,800. The grant will cover $97,500 plus $5,800 for grant administration. The city will be responsible for the other $32,500.
The estimated completion of the project will be in November of 2014.
Replacing Water Meters
Pepin also discussed replacing old water meters with new “radio read” meters. These new meters would transmit the readings to a computer in a car as it drove by. Most of the current meters were installed in the 1930’s. They had a life expectancy of ten years. Many of them are not accurate.
The reason the city would like to explore using the new meters is that it would cut down on revenue loss due to unaccountable water loss. It will also reduce staff time. A person would no longer be needed to go door-to-door to read the meter. The data is automatically uploaded to the office computer so that eliminates data entry time. And, it would eliminate many billing discrepancies.
The cost per meter is approximately $200 each, multiplied by 850 meters for a total of around $170,000. There are low-interest loans available through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There may also be forgivable loans available.
Residents would also be able to monitor their water usage for themselves. The monitors have an LED readout the resident would be able to read. The homeowner could use them to check for leaks or running toilets.
In Other Business
- Approved a motion to seek bids for the annual audit services for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2014.
- Mentioned there was a scholarship opportunity for anyone wanting to participate in the 2014 Carroll County Leadership Roundtable.
- Approved a resolution to appropriate $25,000 of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the purpose of maintaining streets.
- Discussed updating the city website with pertinent information and possibly starting a Facebook page.