Water rates in Forest Park will soon be on the rise if the village council follows the advice given during a presentation by engineer Christopher Burke during a special meeting of the council Monday afternoon.
Burke, president of Rosemont-based Christopher B. Burke Engineering, presented the council with his recommendations for the second phase of the village’s water system overhaul. The first phase, during which 48 percent of the village’s water mains were replaced, was completed in 2003 and was financed through two Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) loans totaling $5,700,000.
According to Burke, the village must now begin replacing the remainder of its 4-inch water mains with 8-inch mains. This, he said, would reduce maintenance costs, cut down on water loss and increase the availability of water to firefighters, among other benefits.
Burke also said the village must increase its water storage capacity, to comply with the widely accepted recommendation for municipalities to have twice their daily flow of water in storage. The village’s current daily flow is 1.9 million gallons, and it has a storage capacity of 2.3 million gallons.
The village’s water is supplied by the City of Chicago.
In addition, Burke recommended increasing the number of emergency water feeds within the village, which allow Forest Park to tap into other villages’ water systems in cases of emergency. Current emergency feeds allow the village access to water from Maywood, River Forest, Oak Park and North Riverside.
Desplaines Avenue, according to Burke, does not currently have access to an emergency feed, while Hannah Avenue’s access is extremely limited.
Burke’s final recommendation was to install a pumping station at the City of Chicago Austin Connection to increase water pressure. Current pumping stations are located on Jackson Boulevard and on Hannah Avenue. The village also has two 500,000-gallon elevated water tanks.
If the village were to take all of Burke’s recommendations, the total cost of the project would be $17,602,363, which would be financed through an IEPA loan with an interest rate of 3 percent to be paid off over 20 years.
Assuming that the village receives the loan, water rate increases would be necessary to pay it off. Forest Park currently charges $3.25 per 1,000 gallons for a single-family residence, and $4.17 for a multifamily residence. The rate for senior citizens is $2.54 per 1,000 gallons, while commercial users are charged $5.39 per 1,000 gallons.
This puts Forest Park toward the bottom when compared to other local communities for residential rates, but close to the top for commercial rates. In a graph presented by Burke showing rates in 11 local municipalities, Forest Park’s residential rate is higher than only Oak Park, River Forest, Melrose Park and Berwyn.
Its commercial rate, however, is lower than only Riverside and Maywood.
According to Burke, an $8 million project could be financed by a 10-percent rate increase in 2007 and a 3-percent annual increase for the remainder of the 20-year loan period, as well as an $8 surcharge per customer each month.
A $12 million project would require 5-percent annual increases with a $12 surcharge per customer, while the total cost of over $17 million would put the monthly surcharge at $20. The commissioners will be able to adjust these numbers by reducing the surcharge and increasing the rates or vice versa, or by minimizing impact upon certain groups such as senior citizens if desired.
Forest Park also supplies 1.5 million gallons of the 3.4 million gallons of water it receives per day from the city of Chicago to the villages of Brookfield and North Riverside through the Brookfield North Riverside Water Commission.
The current contract with the commission expires March 9, 2007, and is automatically renewed unless written notice is given at least 90 days prior to the expiration date. Forest Park currently charges the commission $0.15 per 1,000 gallons plus the Chicago rate of $1 per 100 cubic feet, according to Burke.
Burke said according to his research, an equitable rate to charge the commission would be $0.33 per 1,000 gallons. Rate adjustments, he said, need to demonstrate that Forest Park is incurring a financial loss due to the current rate, and can only be adjusted to the extent necessary to eliminate this loss.
Though a 1997 effort to increase the rate charged to the commission was unsuccessful, Mayor Anthony Calderone said he believes the commission will accept the increase if it is backed up by solid analysis from a credible engineering firm such as Christopher Burke.
The council will likely meet again in the near future to discuss Burke’s recommendations after they have had a chance to further analyze the relevant data.