MARENGO – Residents in May will again see higher wastewater bills, now that construction has restarted on Marengo's wastewater treatment plant project.
As planned, the Marengo City Council on Monday voted, 5-1, to restore the wastewater rate increases aldermen approved in 2011 that were intended to pay back a $12 million loan from the state to finance the expansion project.
With the project now back online after a major setback, the council put into place an incremental rate hike that increases wastewater bills this year and next year to satisfy state environmental officials in control of the multimillion dollar loan.
"We have to show the state that we have the income to pay back the loan," said Mayor Don Lockhart. "We have to show them we have the money before they can give the money, so we figured we should get it done."
The council temporarily cut the increased rates nearly in half in late 2012 after a buried landfill on the construction site, which had gone overlooked, halted the project. City officials restarted construction earlier this fall with new designs that avoid the problematic landfill.
The project would upgrade the city's aging wastewater treatment plant and expand its pumping capacity. Construction should be completed by summer 2015, when the city would begin the 20-year loan repayment.
The two-fold wastewater rate increase approved Monday means residents and small businesses will be charged $6.30 per 1,000 gallons used, starting with their May bills.
The rate increases by another $1 to $7.30 for every 1,000 gallons used, beginning with the August 2015 billing cycle. An average Marengo family consumes between 7,000 to 10,000 gallons a quarter, said Assistant City Administrator Joshua Blakemore.
Marengo residents will have to pay the higher rates until the city repays the loan in 20 years.
Rate relief for residents could happen in the future, if the city ultimately sees more commercial and industrial development that would expand the city's water users and offset the need for higher rates.