BY APRIL EVANS
City council members increased water and sewer bills by $1 Monday and also made plans for a public hearing that will allow them to apply for a $6.5 million loan to help pay for water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.
Aldermen approved a 50-cent water and 50-cent sewer increase on bills effective Jan. 1. The minimum water/sewer bill is now $41, up from $40. Mayor Dennis Lucas said the move was necessary to keep up with normal operating costs at the plants, such as chemicals and electricity.
Three aldermen voted against the increase, Matt Goodrum, Wilma Wilming and Kay Sanders.
Both Sanders and Wilming said there were too many people in town who are senior citizens or are unemployed who can’t afford an increase.
Lucas said he favors a smaller increase annually, rather than a large one every five or six years. And while he also doesn’t like increasing fees, he feels it’s a necessary measure to maintain the plants for the public.
Not directly related to the bill increase, aldermen heard about a public hearing with engineers at 6 p.m. Nov. 19. City engineers from the Farnsworth Group will be there to accept questions about the large scale, multi-year sanitary sewer separation and sewer upgrade project the city is going through.
The city hopes to secure $6.5 million in low-interest revolving loans from the Environmental Protection Agency to pay for the next two steps of the project.
Already complete are two of 11 sanitary sewer separation projects, which were done by city workers on Seminary Street and East West Street. Nine more separation projects are planned, with the next being the largest on Whittier Street and costing around $1 million alone.
Also included in this next phase of the project is the sewer plant upgrade, which Lucas said has not had a major overhaul since 1984. That improvement will cost around $5.5 million.
Lucas said immediate benefits should be seen from this next phase of the project, with less flooding expected to occur after heavy rains in the area of Illinois Route 1 and Mill Street off of Whittier Street. Also, it will greatly lessen the amount of storm water being run through the water plant that doesn’t need to be treated.
They hope to hear back about the loan within 60 days after the hearing. Lucas plans to get the project started immediately, with the Whittier Street project being so large that it will be contracted out.
To help fund some of the multi-year separation project and sewer plant upgrade, residents started paying an additional $8.40 on their sewer bills two years ago. There was already a $5 sewer charge existing.
Lucas said all of that $13.40 per bill goes into a separate fund that has paid for most of the engineering fees for the project thus far, more than $400,000. If a loan is secured, money will come from that fund to help make the payments on it.
Georgetown serves around 1,500 water customers and 1,350 sewer customers on its system.
In other business, board members:
Appointed Jeri Nale as the new city clerk Monday, to fill the vacancy left by Cheryl Pearman who resigned in August.
Nale, who has lived her entire life in Georgetown, works as an independent contractor for J.H. Yudin of Danville, preparing apartments for new tenants.
She recently became involved with the city as the coordinator of the Georgetown Neighborhood Watch program and was interested in the city clerk position.
“I had the experience and education so I thought I’d try it,” Nale said.
Nale has an associate’s degree in administration and nine years managerial office experience.
Lucas made the appointment of Nale, which was narrowly approved by the council. Three aldermen “recused” themselves from the vote, Matt Goodrum, Wilma Wilming and Kay Sanders.
Sanders said she didn’t receive qualifications or information about Nale before the vote, so she felt uncomfortable voting.
“I can’t vote on somebody I don’t know,” Wilming said.
Lucas said Nale is a young person who began to invest in the community and became more involved recently in city functions. He said he felt she would do a good job once she got settled into the office.
Lucas said it was difficult to find a replacement for Pearman, because most were discouraged by the low salary. Aldermen recently increased it from $2,800 to $6,200, but the increase doesn’t take effect until May.
Nale will serve the remainder of the current term, through April. She plans to run for election this spring.
Accepted the resignation of Sherry Serd, city treasurer, effective Nov. 30. Serd has served intermittently as treasurer for 11 years. She plans to retire and spend more time with family and friends.
Will have the planning commission come up with possible names for the war monument located on the northeast corner of the main square in town. The options will then be presented and decided upon by the full council.
Georgetown City Council members meet at 6 p.m. in city hall for a public hearing concerning their request for an Environmental Protection Agency loan to fund impending water and sewer infrastructure upgrades. The regularly scheduled meeting will follow at 7 p.m.