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Johnsburg officials protest water rate increase

Johnsburg Village President Edwin Hettermann
Johnsburg Village President Edwin Hettermann

JOHNSBURG – Johnsburg officials are protesting a water rate increase proposed by Utility Services of Illinois Inc.

Village President Edwin Hettermann has requested a public hearing on the change through the Illinois Commerce Commission after Utilities Inc. recently announced a plan to raise its prices for water. The proposal would leave residents paying $35.03 a month at a flat rate, with consumption rates of $11.08 per 1,000 gallons, according to information from the city of Johnsburg.

Whispering Hills Water System, which is owned and operated by Utilities Inc. – the parent company of Utility Services of Illinois Inc. – serves northern Johnsburg. This would be the third time the company has increased its rates, Hettermann said.

“Many of these residents are on fixed incomes, already struggling with the constant increases they experience from taxes, utilities and other sources,” Hettermann said. “Furthermore, each time Utilities Inc. pursues an increase, they represent that the increase is necessary to cover the cost of needed capital improvements and repairs, yet we have not seen any marked improvement in the water system.”

Utilities Inc. began serving the community in 2009 at a monthly rate of $5.14 and consumption rates of $3.14 per 1,000 gallons, Hettermann said. If the new rates go into effect, residents will see a 682 percent increase from 2009 monthly rates and a 353 percent increase from 2009 consumption rates.

“I respectfully ask that you consider the village’s input regarding the proposed increase and, more importantly, consider the potential impact it will have on our residents – many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet,” Hettermann wrote in a Jan. 11 letter to the commission. “We would be happy to help coordinate an adequate meeting location if you desire.”

Steven Lubertozzi, president of Utility Services of Illinois Inc., said that since the last rate increase, about $2 million in capital improvements have been made or planned in the Whispering Hills Water System.

“We understand that no one likes rate increases, but capital improvements made to improve service to our customers is driving our request to increase customers’ rates,” Lubertozzi said in an email.

Projects include multiple water main replacements, putting in a new well, reconditioning the water tank and more, Lubertozzi said. Ultimately, the Illinois Commerce Commission approves or disapproves all capital improvements and rate increases, he said.

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