Wednesday, April 25, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Starting June 1, the City of Chicago will raise water rates by 1.54 percent, or $3.94 per 1,000 gallons. That’s an estimated $56,000 over the total it charged Maywood last year. The water rate hike is due to an increase in the Consumer Price Index inflation rate.
Since the village purchases its own water from Chicago, the city’s rate increase will automatically be passed onto village residents in the form of higher water bills unless the Board of Trustees acts to set a different rate for residents.
During an April 17 regular meeting, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. recommended against charging residents more for water despite Chicago’s rate increase. No board member objected to Norfleet’s recommendation, which the board is likely to vote on at its next regular meeting on May 1.
In an April 17 memo, Norfleet said that the village will be able to make up for Chicago’s increase “through efficiency in the water operations and better collection of delinquent accounts.”
At the meeting, Norfleet went into detail about what those potential cost-savings might look like.
“We’re going to be going through delinquent accounts requesting that people pay their delinquent amount, as well as making sure all [commercial and industrial businesses] are paying their fee,” Norfleet said.
“On the operations end, we’ll try to find water leaks, [efforts] which we’ve already improved vastly,” the manager added.
Norfleet said that in recent years the village has reduced the number of meters giving out estimated readings, which can contribute to inaccurate water bills.
“We’re down to 294 estimated meters,” he said, “when we were as high as 800 merely a year-and-a-half ago.”
Norfleet also said that the village is cutting into the amount of water that is wasted due to leaks and water main breaks.
He referenced last October’s Chicago Tribune investigative report that showed that Maywood was among a group of financially distressed Chicago suburbs whose residents pay higher water bills than those in much wealthier municipalities.
As of 2014, according to the Tribune report, more than 60 percent of Maywood’s reported 62 miles of pipes were at least 61 years old. Another 16 percent of pipes were older than 40 years. In 2016, Maywood reported losing around 39 percent of the water that it buys from Chicago due to leaky pipes and broke water mains.
According to a June 2017 memo sent by Edwin Hancock Engineering, Maywood’s contracted engineering firm, to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the water lost through leaks and broken water mains was closer to 50 percent. The state standard set by the IDNR is 12 percent.
At the April 17 meeting, Norfleet said that “we need to find the missing water,” before pointing out that in the last two months, the village has found ways to reduce the amount of water it loses by around 1.4 million cubic feet.
“By reducing the amount of water we buy from Chicago, we also reduce the amount of water we have to pay Melrose Park for transporting the water,” Norfleet said.
Chicago increased its water rate each year by 15 percent from 2008 until 2010. In 2012, it increased the rate by 25 percent. And from 2013 until 2015, the city increased the rate by 15 percent each year. In 2016, there was no cost increase.
This is the second year that Norfleet has recommended against the village passing Chicago’s rate increase onto village residents.
The village manager said that he hopes that this is also the second year that the village’s garbage collection rate stays the same. VFP
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