The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

September 17, 2013

Georgetown council finalizes water rates with coal mine

The Commercial-News

GEORGETOWN — City council members approved bulk water rates Monday with Sunrise Coal Co. for the proposed Bulldog Mine to be located in southwest Vermilion County. The agreement states Sunrise Coal Co. will pay a rate of 60 percent of the residential rate for water it purchases in bulk from the city.

This sets the water rates the coal company will pay for years 2-30 of the agreement the coal company and the city agreed to on June 17. The coal company will pay the standard residential rate for the first year of operation. The June 17 agreement stated that the coal company and the city would negotiate an agreement for years 2-30 within 90 days of the signing of that agreement. Those 90 days expired on Monday.

Those negotiations were wrapped up last Monday during a negotiating session between the city water committee and Sunrise. The water committee had approved the agreement in a consensus vote that night.

However, an attempt to delay the action by two aldermen was defeated.

Alderman Adam Hart said he believed the city could negotiate a better price for the water with the coal company. He said he felt the coal company should pay 85 percent of the rate that residential customers pay. Hart attempted to back up his proposal with a set of numbers on a poster board display.

Hart then attempted to challenge the wording in the original June 17 contract between Sunrise Coal Co. and the city, citing a reference to the coal company willing to pay 75 percent of the residential rate.

Suzanne Jaworowski, communications director for Sunrise Coal, was in the audience for the meeting and responded to Hart.

"Sunrise Coal has set a limit of what it will pay the city and that rate is the one negotiated with the water committee of 60 percent," Jaworowski said. "Sunrise has other options in obtaining water that it is prepared to turn to."

Jaworowski also disputed Hart's claim of agreeing to the 75 percent rate.

"When the statement referring to the 75 percent rate was made, we (Sunrise) did not even know what the city's water rates were," explained Jaworowski.

Former mayor Dennis Lucas also spoke before the vote.

Lucas said the agreement was good one for the city because it would bring in some badly needed jobs as well as badly needed income for the city.

"This city has some old infrastructure that needs some repairs," said Lucas. "The income from this agreement will give the city the needed funds to start making those improvements."

In the end, Hart's motion to delay action on the agreement was defeated in a 2-6 vote and the motion to approve the agreement with Sunrise was approved in a 6-2 vote. Hart and Alderman Sam Payne voted to delay the vote and voted against the agreement.

Hart said his intentions should not be misconstrued.

"I am all in favor of the coal mine," he said. "And as a member of this council I want what is good for the city but I want to make sure we are getting our fair share and are not being taken advantage of or begin asked to subsidize the coal company."

City council members will meet next at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the city hall.