Hebron water, sewer bills rise as loan modified, debt service charges added

Debt service charge added after five years of oversight; residents say rising bills are ridiculous, sickening

Hebron Village President Kimberly Martinez poses for a portait in Hebron Wednesday May, 3, 2017. Northwest Herald file photo
Hebron Village President Kimberly Martinez poses for a portait in Hebron Wednesday May, 3, 2017. Northwest Herald file photo

It’s ridiculous.

That is the sentiment around town as residents ponder their growing water and sewer bills.

The village of Hebron recently raised its rates and added a debt service charge to resident’s bills. The debt service charge should have gone into place in 2013 under an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency mandate, but officials at the time overlooked the regulation, according to city documents.

The lack of a debt service charge was uncovered by the IEPA during an audit, village officials said.

The debt service charge is about $5 for every 100 cubic feet – about 748 gallons.

The village recently redid its loan agreement with the IEPA after several years of paying off only the interest on the $4.9 million loan it took out to build a new wastewater treatment plant rather than upgrade the village’s 20-year-old system for about $2 million.

The village in 2005 decided to build a new treatment plant in anticipation of new growth, which Kennedy Homes Trails of Hebron development was supposed to help spur.

The company went bankrupt during the recession and the growth never came to fruition.

The village is engaged in a lawsuit with J & L Contractors, which took over the subdivision.

J & L argues that the village let a near million-dollar letter of credit expire. The credit was supposed to go toward paying for items such as the treatment plant and other infrastructure, according to court documents.

The village still owes the IEPA
$3.9 million on the 2005 loan. Village President Kimmy Martinez said the loan has been extended an additional 10 years and the interest rate is down from 2.5 percent to 1 percent.

The loan must be paid off in 19 years.

Water and sewer rates themselves are on the rise, as well.

In 2018, residents must pay a monthly base water charge of $51.15, a monthly base sewer charge of $93.81 – plus use fees at 96 cents per 100 cubic feet for water and $6.75 per 100 cubic feet toward sewer payments. The debt service charge also is tacked on.

In 2014, residents inside village limits paid a base charge of $42.07 for water and a base charge of $77.18 for sewer. Additional “per-use” fees were at 79 cents per 100 cubic feet of water use and $5.55 per 100 cubic feet to go toward sewer system fees, according to village documents.

Shirley Forman, who is retired and lives on a fixed income, said the bills are becoming unmanageable.

“I only get $400 a month in social security,” she said. “When I take that into consideration along with [$150] health insurance payment it leaves me nothing left. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s taking everything. This is such a small town and it has been poorly run.”

Resident Steve Cook said he was frustrated with the situation.

“You can’t get a straight answer out of anybody,” he said. “We get lots of zigs and zags. Why did we start with this plant before it was needed? If you have room and capacity – wait until subdivisions are in.”

Despite the ire, residents shouldn’t expect to see bills go down. An ongoing annual 5 percent increase still is in effect through at least 2020, according to village documents.

The rates for 2020 include a monthly base charge of $56.39 for water, a sewer base charge of $103.43, water use charges up to $1.05 per 100 cubic feet and sewer use charges of $13 per cubic-feet, according to village documents.

The average resident uses between 200 to 400 cubic feet a month, depending on the season, village officials said.

“Unfortunately, the village isn’t dictating water rates right now,” Martinez said. “The IEPA is because of this loan.”

Longtime Hebron residents who have watched the debacle said they are disgusted with the situation.

“It’s just sickening,” said Ken Wappler, who has lived in the village for at least two decades. “It shouldn’t be us paying for this whole thing. We didn’t really need it. I live check to check and have a hard time paying.”

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