Franklin Park, other towns fight water-rate hikes
Updated: June 4, 2012 11:01AM
Community leaders are lobbying Illinois lawmakers on Senate Bill 3658, the water rate protection bill.
Franklin Park Village President Barrett Pedersen, as well as LaGrange Park Village President James Discipio and Westchester Village President Sam Pulia of Westchester, have been vocal about Chicago rate increases for the next three years.
Neil James, deputy director of the West Central Municipal Conference, and Emily Carroll, senior organizer of the Food and Water Watch, have also been outspoken about the impact the rates hikes could have.
Suburban communities are already feeling the strain of the initial increase in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s program to raise the city’s water rates to the suburbs by 70 percent of 2011 rates within four years.
SB 3658 would create the Water Rate Protection Act, adding oversight to future efforts to increase rates for suburbs and other communities that receive water from external suppliers.
The municipal officials are meeting with delegates in Springfield to finalize the bill’s language, according to James. He intends to work with officials to ensure that suburbs receive proper representation rather than being overshadowed by the city.
Pulia said Emanuel’s program would burden suburban residents with footing 50 percent of Chicago’s costly water infrastructure renovation program that would primarily benefit residents of the city. Pulia said while Chicago should not be alone in maintaining and replacing the pipes used to transport water to the suburbs, he took issue with Westchester residents paying for services that only benefit Chicago residents.
“It strikes as a little bit of arrogance,” said Pulia, referring to the city’s decision to unilaterally impose the rate hike without discussion from the suburban communities.
The municipal leaders agreed suburban residents should not be forced to pay for such a large portion of the project, especially during a time when vital repairs are needed locally.
Pedersen noted that Franklin Park water mains are dated as 70 years and suffer from leakage, a cost which is exacerbated by the rate hike.
Pulia stated water leakage from neglected pipes peaked at 20 percent four years ago in Westchester. While the figure has been resolved to meet the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency standard of 8 percent, the village has witnessed 15 water main breaks since the beginning of the year.