VG City Council considers the utility facility options

The Villa Grove City Council met for their Committee of the Whole meeting on July 27 at 6 p.m., with Mayor Eversole Gunter calling the roll and finding all aldermen, Clerk Osborne, Administrator Athey, Chief of Police Rea and Public works director Arbuckle in attendance. Also present were City Attorney Mark Miller and City Engineer Andy Kieser.  

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Kieser gave the Engineer’s report. Kieser noted that instrumentation was being put in place to measure the exact amount of Hydrogen Sulfide being exuded, to make a determination as to how to best mitigate it. 

The council then opened for public comments, and for the next hour, citizens were able to voice their concerns over the possibility of selling the city’s public works facilities in the future. Bruce Allen, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, was present to read a letter from the Chamber, opposing such a sale.

Allen noted that the utility represented a major source of revenue for the city, and that such a sale would pose a risk for the businesses of the city.  He also noted that some in other towns had noted their displeasure with Illinois American in particular after such sales had been completed.  Allen also stated that the Chamber of Commerce failed to understand why the city raised water rates in order to build a new water plant, only to consider selling the facility two years later.

Mayor Eversole-Gunter then countered by informing Allen, a former alderman, that any monies raised through the utility could only be used for maintaining or improving the utilities themselves, and couldn’t be used for anything that isn’t related to water or sewer so shouldn’t be classified as an open source of revenue.  She also noted that the city is only in the preliminary fact-finding phase of the project, and that absolutely no decisions to sell the utility have been contemplated. The city had only recently received the results of an independent study they had commissioned by Gerry Hartman, a nationally recognized expert in waste-water treatment facilities.  Eversole-Gunter also noted that Hartman’s report included several solutions that were untenable for the city as far as raising rates to pay for the necessary improvements.

Next, Villa Grove resident Mike Klein, an engineer with an extensive background in water production and waste-water treatment, took the floor.  Klein noted that the city is not ready to make any decisions, as noted, and that he recognized four unknowns that must be addressed prior to that time. One, when will the EPA mandate that cities begin to control Nitrogen in their wastewater?  The $1 million dollar option that has been rumored contains no such mitigation, which at some point in the future, the city will be forced to address. Two, it is estimated that a treatment facility equipped to remove nitrogen would cost between four and five million dollars, and that grants up to $2 million might be available.  Three, the sewer system itself has issues with leaks that allow storm water in.  The study showed that it could be a $1 million dollar process to fix, but Klein called it “a huge unknown” if, when and how hard the EPA would come down on the city for a leaky sewer system.  Klein noted that the final unknown was that the city has no idea of the level of interest in purchasing the system.  City attorney Mark Miller then noted that Hartman’s study contained language that stated that some solutions for the wastewater facility would far exceed the city’s ability to pay. 

City Administrator Athey noted that she was working with the auditor in addition to handling the day to day operations of the office.

Mayor Gunter then announced that all alumni and school grand opening events had been cancelled.   

Resident Janet McCumber then addressed the council regarding wind energy, noting that the ordinance that the county was currently operating under was written in 2009, and that in 2009 there were no turbines nearly as tall as the ones located on the and so the ordinance isn’t restrictive. 

The city then moved on to a discussion of new business including

     • A brief review of the utility systems study from Gerry Hartman

          Potential impact of wind farm and hiring of an attorney for ordinances regarding them

          MFT plan submission to IDOT

The council then moved into closed session to discuss personnel at 8:26 p.m., emerging at 9:31 p.m. 

Finding no further business, the council then moved to adjourn, with all in favor.

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