First-time sewer tax OK'd to fund aging infrastructure fixes

$1.37 million expected in additional revenue for improvements

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By Maria Maxham

Water rates are rising slightly, and a new sewer tax is being added for all types of customers in Forest Park, including residential, multi-family residences of three or more units, senior citizens, industrial and commercial, and institutional. The increase is expected to bring in an additional $1,370,000 in annual revenue and will be used to fix and replace the town's aging water and sewer infrastructure, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.

At the Feb. 10 village council meeting, Mayor Rory Hoskins and Commissioners Joe Byrnes, Ryan Nero, Dan Novak and Jessica Voogd voted unanimously to increase water rates and, for the first time ever, add in a fee for sewer usage. Until now, Forest Park and Elmwood Park were two of the only towns in the vicinity that did not charge residents for sewer usage. Oak Park, River Forest, Riverside, Brookfield, River Grove, LaGrange Park, Lyons and Westchester residents all pay a sewer tax.

For residential customers, water rates will increase on June 1 from $7.31 to $7.68 per 100 cubic feet, approximately a five percent increase. The village increased the water rate by 1.53 percent in 2018. In 2016 and 2017, there was no increase in water fees. And from 2013 to 2015, there was a 15 percent increase annually, with a 25 percent increase in 2012. Those increases came as the City of Chicago amped up the prices it charged suburbs for Lake Michigan water.

All water customers in the village will pay a sewer rate for the first time. For residents, it will be $1.45 per 100 cubic feet. With the addition of the sewer tax, the total increase for residents for both types of usage will go from $7.31 to $9.13 per 100 cubic feet, an increase of approximately 25 percent.

Even with this increase, however, Forest Park residents will still be below what most other surrounding towns are charging for combined water and sewer, including: LaGrange Park, Lyons, Riverside, Maywood, River Forest, Bellwood, Brookfield, Elmwood Park and Oak Park. Forest Park will be charging slightly more than Leyden Township, River Grove and Westchester.

In January 2020 Chris Burke Engineering, the village's contracted engineering firm, presented a water and sewer rate study to the village council. The study, the first one since 2005, looked at water and sewer infrastructure improvements needed in Forest Park and compared current water and sewer rates to other towns.

The study showed that water-related infrastructure improvements in the village would cost over $30 million, and sewer projects over $100 million. Not all of these are projects that must be completed immediately, but the water and sewer infrastructure in town definitely need work, as evidenced in the report.

At the Feb. 10 village council meeting, Hoskins said all revenue from the water and sewer charges will be used for water and sewer improvements, such as replacing all 4-inch water mains with 8-inch mains.

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